Five countries in Africa are nearing control of their HIV epidemics as the United States government aims to expand progress against the virus, according to the CDC.
In a news release, the agency cited data indicating that Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are approaching control of HIV’s spread. In addition, Uganda’s epidemic, which had been expanding earlier, has now stabilized.
The data were gathered through Population-based HIV Impact Assessments (PHIAs), which are funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and conducted by ICAP at Columbia University and the CDC, along with local governments and communities.
“CDC is so pleased to contribute to the global HIV response, working with ministries of health and other partners on science-based solutions that are transforming some of the world’s most severe HIV epidemics,” CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, said in the news release. “National surveys are critical to show the impact of efforts and to chart the path to fully achieve HIV epidemic control.”
According to the surveys’ results, Lesotho has achieved viral load suppression in more than 67% of people with HIV between the ages of 15 and 59 years. That means the small enclave country surrounded by South Africa is on pace for epidemic control by 2020, the CDC said.
According to an MMWR published in August, a universal treatment program in Lesotho increased by 79% the average monthly number of people starting ART at 120 treatment sites. The program, known as Test and Start, is aimed at diagnosing HIV and providing ART to all who need it.
Uganda’s success was likely the result of increased male circumcision and the expansion of HIV treatment, including that of pregnant women with the virus, the CDC said.
Following news of the progress made in those countries, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a new PEPFAR strategy for 2017 to 2020. Although PEPFAR provides HIV/AIDS services in more than 50 countries, the new strategy includes accelerated services in 13 countries with a high burden of the virus that nonetheless could reach epidemic control by 2020. The effort includes cooperating with host governments and other organizations.
Building on and expanding progress will be important to the cause of fighting HIV, Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, global director for ICAP at Columbia University, said in the release.
“The findings from the six countries provide a report card on the global and local efforts in confronting the HIV epidemics while at the same time helping to shape a blueprint for their future course as they continue their quest to stem this epidemic,” El-Sadr said in the news release. “The gaps identified in reaching young women and men are relevant to many other countries around the world, and addressing them is critically important to achieving the ultimate goal of ending this epidemic.” – by Joe Green
Schwitters AM. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6630a4.
Disclosures: El-Sadr and Fitzgerald report no relevant financial disclosures.