Windhoek - HIV/AIDS remains one of the greatest challenges facing Southern Africa and it has affected every sphere of society.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region still experiences the highest HIV incidences in the world. The spread of HIV/AIDS is worsened by the movement of people across borders and this does not only include commercial sex workers and long-distance truck drivers, but also the migrant populations, communities close to border sites, and communities with high levels of inward and outward migration. Young adults are also particularly at risk, given that they make up the largest portion of mobile populations, as they are the population segment that is involved in periodic transnational sex most.
The SADC Secretariat has embarked on an HIV and AIDS Cross-Border Initiative with support from the Global Fund across 12 SADC member states, namely, Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The initiative’s goal is to reduce HIV infections in the SADC region and to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on mobile populations and affected communities across SADC member states. Each of these cross-border sites provides the following clinical services to migrants at the mobile clinics: HIV testing services; condom distribution; diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and primary health care services.
A document seen by The Southern Times discussed in the SADC Council Of Ministers’ meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2017 shows that US$462,779 has been disbursed to fund the gap from July 2017 to March 2018 for the operation of 10 wellness clinics established under the Global Fund grant.
So far, the funding has provided services to 20,894 clients in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe from the target group that includes long distance truck drivers, sex workers and the community members within the borders.
During the implementation period of six years (2011-2017), the initiative overwhelmingly indicates that the percentage of sex workers, long-distance truck drivers and community members living with HIV and AIDS has significantly decreased. The number of sex workers living with HIV and AIDS has decreased from 50% to 23%, long distance truck drivers from 33% to 16% while the number dropped by half among community members (14% to 7%).
Although SADC member states are implementing HIV prevention interventions, the HIV burden is still heavy, as the region is home to an estimated 13.4 million people living with HIV. Therefore, ministers have been urged to fast-track the domestication and alignment of the approved regional strategies and national HIV and AIDS frameworks and the mobilisation of domestic resources for the implementation and sustainability of the HIV and AIDS responses.