New HIV infections in Malawi decreased by 61% between 2010 and 2021

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New HIV infections in Malawi decreased by 61% between 2010 and 2021 due to Malawi’s expansion of the HIV treatment, according to the 2022 Global AIDS Update released by UNAIDS.

The report attributes the progress to expanded HIV treatment with a focus on reaching both women and their partners through antenatal care.

Malawi also saw a considerable decline in tuberculosis-related deaths. Among 30 tuberculosis–HIV high-burden countries, the most significant declines in tuberculosis-related deaths among people living with HIV occurred in Ethiopia (84% decline), India (81% decline), Malawi (77% decline), South Africa (77% decline), the United Republic of Tanzania (75% decline), Thailand (74% decline), Eswatini (72% decline) and Kenya (72% decline).

A global challenge in HIV treatment is the urban-rural divide where people access HIV services unequally, depending on where they live. For Africa, the UNAIDS Global AIDS update shows that HIV treatment disparity is pronounced in countries such as the Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

“[However] Some countries that have minimized coverage gaps between districts—such as Lesotho, Malawi and Rwanda—have also achieved some of the largest reductions in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths,” the report says.

UNAIDS Malawi Country Director Nuha Ceesay said ending AIDS requires concerted efforts.

“Ending AIDS as a public health concern in Malawi by 2030 is not a moving target but a realistic commitment that requires predictable partnership and sustainable funding, including the increased use of domestic resources,” Ceesay said.

In spite of Malawi’s progress in ending AIDS, the country also shares in the SADC region’s faltering progress in fighting the pandemic. In eastern and southern Africa, young women, children, and key populations are disproportionately affected by HIV.

In sub-Saharan Africa, sex workers (15%), clients of sex workers and sex partners of key populations (26%), gay men and men who have sex with men (6%), people who inject drugs (3%) and transgender women (1%) accounted for 51% of the distribution of new infections in 2021. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are 3 times as likely to acquire HIV as adolescent boys and young men.

In eastern and southern Africa, the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022 highlights that women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. They accounted for 63% of the region’s new HIV infections in 2021 where new HIV infections are three times higher among adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) than among males of the same age.

The report also revealed that progress in prevention and treatment is faltering worldwide, putting millions of people in grave danger. Eastern Europe and central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa have all seen increases in annual HIV infections over several years.

Giving a global perspective, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said the AIDS response is in severe danger.

“If we are not making rapid progress then we are losing ground, as the pandemic thrives amidst COVID-19, mass displacement, and other crises. Let us remember the millions of preventable deaths we are trying to stop,” Byanyima said.

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