The Zambian government on Friday expressed concern over the rising number of new HIV infections among young people aged between 15 and 35.
While acknowledging the progress made towards ending HIV as a public health threat, Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo said the increased number of new HIV infections among young people threatens to reverse the gains made.
“The urgency to address this issue is highlighted by the fact that approximately 50 percent of new HIV infections occurred among adolescents and young people in 2022, accounting for an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 new infections annually,” she said during a press briefing ahead of the National HIV Testing, Counseling and Treatment Day to be held on Aug. 15.
According to her, about 35 percent of new HIV infections were among infants due to infections in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, adding that childhood HIV detection and treatment rates have remained insufficient over time.
She attributed the increased number of new HIV infections among young people to inadequate uptake of preventive interventions, including testing services, suboptimal adherence to treatment, substance abuse, and high-risk behaviors driven by peer influence.
The government, she said, was intensifying HIV testing, prevention and treatment through a comprehensive country action plan which outlines strategic requirements.
She further said that the government intends to confront inequalities enabling stigma, discrimination and HIV-related criminalization which were heightening exposure to HIV acquisition and AIDS-related deaths.
The minister stressed that failure to address the challenges threatens to reverse the hard-earned progress Zambia has achieved so far.
“Therefore, we must constantly focus on implementing strategies to address gaps and weaknesses, especially in areas where new HIV infections and treatment could rise,” she said.