NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A ten-fold increase in access to life-prolonging drugs contributed to a 38 percent drop in the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes in eastern and southern Africa between 2005 and 2011, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The number of deaths fell from 1.3 million to 800,000 per year, according to a new report by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The number of people taking antiretroviral therapy soared from 625,000 to 6.3 million between 2005 and 2012.
“Countries in eastern and southern Africa are making great strides in responding to HIV,” UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said in a statement. “This is good news––fewer people are dying of AIDS and fewer are becoming infected with the virus.”
Several countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have had reductions of at least 50 percent in AIDS-related deaths since 2005.
CHILDREN AND WOMEN
The number of new HIV infections among children fell by half from 2001 to 2011. Almost three-quarters of pregnant women in the region received medication and services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus in 2011.
However, there are great variations between countries in access to services for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. In Swaziland and Zambia, 80 percent of women receive help while less than 25 percent do so in Angola and Ethiopia.
Only one-third of children receive treatment to enable them to live healthy lives. These generic drugs only cost around $70 a year.
New infections among adults aged 15-49 were reduced by around a third from 1.7 million in 2001 to 1.2 million in 2011. Young women remain particularly vulnerable, and twice as many of them were infected as young men.
“At the core of the high infections among women is not just the biological makeup of women, but negative social norms and excessive violation of their basic human rights,” Michaela Clayton Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa said in the statement.
“We have to put in place and effectively implement laws and policies that protect women and ensure they have access to education that integrates health and sexuality education.”
Women often find it hard to negotiate sex and condom use because of the threat of violence and their economic dependence on men. In Kenya, the majority of new infections are among married couples, largely because of infidelity and polygamy.
Laws and practices like genital mutilation, denial of property and inheritance rights and marital rape also place women in harm’s way.
Of all people living with HIV globally, 23.5 million, more than two-thirds, are in sub-Saharan Africa.