HIV/AIDs in Cameroon
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.

Looking Forward

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
Photo: Unsplash

HIVAIDS in KenyaOn July 14, 2021, in Nairobi, Kenya, the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) held its sixth Maisha HIV/AIDS conference, bringing together stakeholders to continue the battle against HIV/AIDS in Kenya and find impactful solutions. The NACC is the main “body responsible for coordinating the HIV response in Kenya.” The organization of the Maisha HIV/AIDS conference follows the objectives of NACC to mobilize resources, engage and collaborate with other organizations focusing on HIV/AIDS control. Since its establishment in 1999, NACC’s government-funded groundwork, analysis and implementation efforts have affirmed the right to health. With an average of 100,000 new HIV/AIDS cases in Kenya yearly, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data from 2014, NACC’s research, community-led initiatives and destigmatization efforts form a core part of the frontline response to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Kenya

According to Avert, in 2019, Kenya reported “1.5 million people living with HIV” and 21,000 deaths stemming from AIDS. While this mortality rate is high, “the death rate has declined steadily from 64,000 in 2010.” Young people account for a significant number of infections — in 2015, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 made up more than 50% “of all new HIV infections in Kenya.”

Since the rise of HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, many sub-Saharan countries still grapple to control the spread of the virus. However, today, Kenya stands as “one of sub-Saharan Africa’s HIV prevention success stories.” In 2019, yearly new HIV infections stood at “less than a third of what they were at the peak of the country’s epidemic in 1993.”

The efforts of the NACC and several local and international organizations are responsible for these successes. In 2013, the NACC began the Prevention Revolution Roadmap to End New HIV Infections by 2030, a strategy for combating HIV/AIDs in Kenya.

The Kenyan government distributes condoms each year as an HIV prevention method. In 2013, the government distributed “180 million free condoms.” Furthermore, the government mandates the inclusion of HIV education in school curriculums to ensure citizens are well-educated on the HIV epidemic and specific guidelines for prevention and treatment. Kenya also utilizes events and the media to raise awareness of HIV/AIDs, which has proven successful. One particular community mobilizer with Lodwar Vocational Training Centre (LVTC) in Kenya distributes 5,000 condoms per day to communities while disseminating information on the current HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya and testing processes.

The Maisha Reporting Tool

Kenya’s Government Ministries, Counties, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) use the NACC’s Maisha Reporting Tool to monitor HIV/AIDS in Kenya. This allows MDAs to become effective AIDS control units. Policy-makers inform their intervention using localized data pulled from the tool. The Maisha Reporting tool ultimately aims to encourage the active engagement of MDAs “in developing and implementing policies to tackle the prevention and management of HIV and AIDS in Kenya.”

MDAs’ participation in the certification system involves documenting and tracking their efforts to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS in Kenya. These recorded undertakings on the part of MDAs include efforts for counseling and testing, distribution of condoms and baseline surveys to help control the spread of the disease.

MDAs strive to manage HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and with the help of the NACC and government funding, MDAs are shifting the narrative of implementation. Through targeted outreach, conferencing, programming and advocacy, Kenya is able to make strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The NACC’s Maisha Reporting Tool aims to equip all government agencies with a platform that facilitates understanding and encourages action in order to one day establish an HIV-free Kenya.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Flickr