More than 2.1 million people in Mozambique are living with HIV, the vírus that causes AIDS, Health Minister Nazira Abdula announced in Maputo on Tuesday.
She was speaking at the opening of a national meeting of the Programme to Control Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV/AIDS, which will assess the level of implementation of the Accelerated Response to HIV in the 2013-2017 period.
Government estimates for the number of HIV-positive people in the country are being revised upwards. The figures in December last year indicated that 1.9 million people were living with HIV. Within three months that figure has risen by 200,000 – although this may be the result of more reliable figures on the total Mozambican population from the 2017 census.
“The most recent estimates indicate that there are 2.1 million people in Mozambique living with HIV, of whom 64 per cent are aware of their HIV status”, said Abdula. “Only 54 per cent of these people are undergoing treatment.
Faced with this situation, she said, the government has been seeking to make citizens aware of the threat and to take precautions against the disease. One of the major challenges, the minister added, was to strengthen communication by ensuring that the messages transmitted were meaningful to Mozambicans.
Abdula expressed concern that men showed less interest in pursuing treatment for HIV infection than women. “This even has a negative impact on women joining and remaining on anti-retroviral treatment”, she said.
Abdula warned that stigma and discrimination remain major problems that damage HIV-positive people psychologically. “These two factors have led people to be afraid to look for information, services, clinical care and to adopt safer methods and behaviour”, she said.
“We are in favour of greater effectiveness in preventive action”, said Abdula, “including retaining in treatment those who have already begun anti-retroviral therapy. We shall continue to need the involvement of the community and religious leaderships in developing and consolidating behavioural practices”.
The latest estimate for HIV prevalence among Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 is 13.2 per cent.