New HIV infections fall by 44% in Swaziland

25 July 2017

Swaziland – the country with the world’s largest HIV prevalence – is showing signs of getting the epidemic under control, as more people access treatment and become virally suppressed.

Swaziland flag

New HIV infections in Swaziland have fallen by nearly one half (44%) since 2011, and the number of people who are virally suppressed more than doubled, according to exciting data presented at the International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science in Paris yesterday.

73% of all people living with HIV in Swaziland, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, now have an undetectable viral load – meaning they cannot transmit the virus to others. The statistics suggest that Swaziland has reached the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Fast-Track Goals of getting 73% of all people living with HIV virally suppressed.

The findings come from the second Population HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey (SHIMS 2), and are the first to show the impact of the scale-up to ‘Treat All’ in a high-burden setting.

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 220,000 people were living with HIV in Swaziland, and it has the highest HIV prevalence globally at an estimated 27% in 2016.

The data reveals differences between men and women, with women more likely to be virally suppressed than men – 76% and 68% respectively. New infections also fell more sharply among women from 2011 to 2016 – by 2.0% for adult women and 0.9% for adult men. Younger people under 25 were also less likely to know their status, access treatment and be virally suppressed compared to older populations.

“The findings from SHIMS 2 are a testimony to the remarkable commitment by the Government of Swaziland to confronting the HIV epidemic,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University. “It is a demonstration that all the efforts put into the scale-up of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services have borne fruit.”

The PHIAs are made up of household-based national surveys that aim to measure the status of the national HIV response across a number of PEPFAR priority countries. Swaziland now joins Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia as countries making good progress towards the 90-90-90 Fast-Track Targets, reported at the end of last year.

Photo credit:
Flickr: Darron Raw/ Creative Commons

Written by Caitlin Mahon

Content Specialist - HIV & Sexual Health