Equatorial Guinea is a small country in central Africa with a population of just over 1,700,000 people. Although it is a small nation, it has been heavily impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As of 2022, about 7% of the adult population aged 15-49 had contracted the disease, which is about 66,000 individuals. Only about 51% of adults are aware of their status as HIV positive. Furthermore, it is estimated that around 3,600 children in the country are living with HIV. Since 2010, the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS in Equatorial Guinea and deaths from the disease has been steadily increasing from around 1,600 deaths in 2010 to 2,300 deaths from the virus in 2021. Much of the country’s issues with the virus can be attributed to low government spending on education and health care, with only 3.8% of GDP going towards health care.
In recent years, the main treatment for HIV/AIDS in Equatorial Guinea has been ART, which stands for antiretroviral therapy. This involves patients taking a combination of medicines that help prevent HIV from replicating in the body. This allows for CD4 cells to replenish, which helps fight infection in the immune system. About 41% of those living with the disease in Equatorial Guinea were receiving some type of ART treatment, showing that the country has a ways to go to ensure all citizens infected with the virus receive treatment. Furthermore, just 42% of pregnant women are receiving this treatment. This is especially alarming as pregnant women can pass on HIV/AIDS to their children through birth or through breastfeeding. Helping pregnant women become untransmissible could be one of the best ways to stop the spread of the virus. One becomes non-transmissible through the use of medications and treatments such as ART.
Action Being Taken
In 2014, then President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, met with the UNAIDS Executive Director to discuss ways forward in combating HIV/AIDS in Equatorial Guinea. They discussed how, in recent years, Equatorial Guinea has opened new treatment centers that provide care for citizens with the disease. This has allowed the nation to reduce the number of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. From 2011 to 2014, pregnant women’s access to ART treatments increased by 13%. Teodoro Obiang promised to work with UNAIDS to help end the epidemic in his country by 2030. While this meeting was promising, little has been said by the Equatorial Guinea government in several years on their current policy on HIV/AIDS and any action being taken.
Outside organizations are also working to fight against HIV/AIDS in Equatorial Guinea. One of these is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In November of 2022, the organization partnered with the NGO SOS Children’s Villages met with several schools and youth centers near Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. During these meetings, UNFPA educated the youth on stigmatized topics such as HIV, AIDS, STIs and teen pregnancy and distributed informational materials such as brochures. It is the hope of UNFPA that greater education around these issues will help reduce cases of HIV and AIDS.
Currently, many individuals are battling HIV/AIDS in Equatorial Guinea. However, with renewed commitment taken by the government in terms of increased access to treatment for civilians, it is entirely possible that the population can bounce back from this epidemic and drastically reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
– Emma Glas