Diseases in ZambiaIn Zambia, located east of Angola and south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis have the highest incidence rates. The risk for infectious diseases in Zambia, as with many Southern African nations, is particularly high. Here are the most common diseases in Zambia:

  1. HIV/AIDS
    Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus transmitted through certain bodily fluids that weakens or destroys the immune system’s cells. If not started on antiretroviral treatment (ART), HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)— the most advanced phase of the HIV infection.HIV/AIDS afflicts a large proportion of the Zambian population. In 2015, the adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS was the seventh-highest in the world, with an estimated 13 percent of Zambian adults aged 15-49 being HIV-positive.

    In 2016, the Zambian government partnered with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to deliver anti-retroviral therapy to 693,599 Zambians. The partnership will also supply 2.7 million Zambians with HIV counseling and testing, support voluntary medical male circumcision and offer supportive care services to 366,447 Zambian youth affected by HIV/AIDS.

  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria can be prevented with interventions, such as indoor insecticide spraying and insecticide-treated mosquito nets and treated with anti-malarial drugs.Each year, malaria affects more than four million Zambians and is responsible for nearly 8,000 deaths. Pregnant women and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable groups, with malaria being the cause of 35 to 50 percent of under-five mortality and 20 percent of maternal mortality.

    Zambia is a member state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Elimination (E8), a regional alliance of eight Southern African nations committed to malaria elimination in Southern Africa by 2021. Recent interventions, including the distribution of more than 1.8 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor insecticide spraying programs and mass antimalarial drug administration have assisted Zambia in reaching its elimination targets.

    “The [Southern] province has done extremely well in the malaria elimination agenda. We are talking about zero mortality rate and single-digit malaria cases in most of the districts,” said Zambian health minister Chitalu Chilufya in an interview with Zambia Daily Mail on June 12, 2017.

  3. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne bacterial disease that primarily affects the lungs. Most cases of TB can be treated with a course of antibiotics.Annually, an estimated 50,000 cases are identified in Zambia and about 5,000 deaths are attributable to TB. HIV-positive individuals are at higher risk than the general population for developing TB; in 2013, an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Zambian TB patients were coinfected with HIV.

    An initiative for a 75 percent reduction in TB-related deaths among HIV-positive individuals by 2012 was included in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS (UNAIDS).

    “It is unacceptable that so many people living with HIV die from tuberculosis, and that most are undiagnosed or untreated,” UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibé said. “Only by stepping up collaboration between HIV and tuberculosis programs to accelerate joint action can the world reach its critical HIV and tuberculosis targets.”

HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB incidences are concentrated in the world’s poorest populations. Limited resources, deficient transportation and sanitation infrastructures and a number of other issues accelerate transmission and the severity of diseases in Zambia.

Recently, the Zambian government unveiled its 7 National Development Plan (7NDP), 2017–2021, which addresses the need for community-based preventive health services and new programs for prevention and reduction of diseases in Zambia. The plan proposes a conceptual framework to transition from sector-specific to multi-sector health intervention programs, which address the non-biological determinants of public health (e.g., water and sanitation, nutrition, education, household income and road infrastructure).

With the addition of new, multi-sectoral development programs for infectious disease control and reduction, the government anticipates declining incidences of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB in Zambia.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr