One of the most prominent challenges citizens in Cameroon are facing today is the prevalence of HIV/AIDs throughout the country. With the national infection rate being 3.7% in 2021, achieving epidemic control continues to be a constant battle. However, with the help of foreign aid, NGOs and the proactive efforts of the Cameroonian government, the country is making progress toward this goal. Here are the most important things to know about the history of HIV/AIDs in Cameroon and the state of the prevention effort.
History and Demographics
Like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there is a higher rate of individuals infected with HIV/AIDs in Cameroon than in most other parts of the world. The earliest reported case in Cameroon was in 1985 and by 1990 the country had an estimated 49,000 infected individuals. This number increased every year until it peaked at an estimated 520,000 cases in 2012. Since then, the annual rate has slowly but steadily declined to an estimated 500,000 cases in 2021.
Though many children have HIV/AIDs in Cameroon, people 15 years or older are by far the most common and represent an estimated 460,000 of the 500,000 currently infected, according to UNAIDS. Within the adult over 15 cohort, women are more than twice as likely to have HIV/AIDs than men.
Prevention and US Support
The first measure the government of Cameroon took to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs was the establishment of the National AIDS Control Committee (NACC) in 1986. Its function was to facilitate cooperation between prevention efforts nationally. It expanded its efforts further in 2000 when it launched the first of three five-year plans to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDs in the country.
There has also been a myriad of U.S.-backed efforts to help assist in the prevention effort. For example, in 2008 the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health as well as a host of NGOs to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Through this collaboration the CDC aimed at “providing technical leadership on HIV epidemic control efforts within the country” but eventually expanded its operations to also include “direct clinical support” and help “scale-up access to HIV prevention and treatment services.”
Additionally, USAID has backed and helped execute a variety of HIV/AIDs prevention plans in Cameroon through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A few of these initiatives are The Continuum of Prevention, Care and Treatment (CoPCT) of HIV/AIDS with Most-at-Risk Populations in Cameroon (CHAMP), Reaching Impact, Saturation, and Epidemic Control (RISE) and Community-Led Monitoring (CLM).
In general, PEPFAR programs aim to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDs in Cameroon through education, community outreach, reliable data collection and strengthening existing government and non-governmental healthcare agencies.
Though it may seem like a sign of inefficacy that total infection numbers have only gone down by a small margin since 2012, it is important to remember that epidemics tend to grow exponentially and that the population of Cameroon has been increasing steadily at a high rate for the past several decades. With this in mind, a stagnated or only marginally decreased total infection figure is actually quite an accomplishment, as the government has to account for an enormous increase in population and the spread of infectious diseases is notoriously difficult to subdue.
Further, aid from countries like the U.S. was undoubtedly instrumental in achieving this feat and continued international support will be necessary as the national government continues to battle HIV/AIDs in Cameroon.
– Xander Heiple