HIV-AIDS Trends in Southern and East Africa: A Mixed Bag

HIV/AIDS mortality rates over time for select African nations. IHME

Eastern and Southern sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 55% of total deaths from HIV/AIDS in 2013. In most countries in these regions, deaths from the disease are dropping. A recent article in the New York Times celebrated specific, successful interventions in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Malawi. Such progress, however, must be considered along with countries where death rates have stagnated or even increased.

First, the map below (taken from IHME’s Millennium Development Goal Visualization tool), which illustrates rates of death from HIV/AIDS around the world in 2013, shows how countries in Southern and Eastern Africa (especially South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi) have much higher rates of death than the rest of the world.

HIV/AIDS deaths per 100,000 people, 2013

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Clearly, much more work remains to be done to address HIV/AIDS in these countries. But how much progress have they made in reducing mortality from the disease to date?

The following screen grab shows trends in HIV/AIDS mortality in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique. According to Global Burden of Disease researchers, death rates in Botswana and Zimbabwe declined dramatically at an annualized rate of 6.2% and 3.4% per year, respectively, between 2000 and 2013. In contrast, death rates in Mozambique and South Africa actually increased at an annualized rate of 8.7% and 7.1% during that same period. To be fair, death rates in Mozambique and South Africa never rose as high as they did in Botswana and Zimbabwe, but the lack of progress in these countries is concerning.

HIV/AIDS deaths per 100,000 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana, 1990-2013

HIV South and East Africa

 Note: The shading surrounding the line represents the range of possible estimates of HIV/AIDS deaths per 100,000 in a given year, also known as the uncertainty interval.

The next screen grab compares trends in death rates in Mozambique to its neighbors in Eastern Africa. It is clear that trends in Mozambique differ greatly from other countries in the region, many of which have succeeded in driving down death rates substantially over the last decade.

HIV/AIDS deaths per 100,000 people in select Eastern African countries, 1990-2013

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Why do you think Mozambique and South Africa haven’t made as much progress as their neighbors in reducing the death toll from HIV/AIDS?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section and via Twitter and Facebook.

Despite the lack of progress in Mozambique and South Africa, their HIV/AIDS death rates are not rising as fast as they did during the period 1990 to 2000. In these nations, more years of life are being saved than ever before as a result of efforts to combat AIDS, such as anti-retroviral therapy and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Life years are a tally of all the years people were able to live thanks to these interventions. For example, from 1990 to 2003, only around 7 years of life were saved as a result of AIDS interventions in Mozambique. From 2009 to 2013, however, 261,281 life years were saved.

By learning from the experiences of their neighbors, perhaps Mozambique and South Africa could lower the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS in their countries.

Katie Leach-Kemon, a weekly contributor of global health visual information posts for Humanosphere, is a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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About Author

Katie Leach-Kemon

Katherine (Katie) Leach-Kemon is a policy translation specialist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Katie specializes in two of IHME's research areas, the Global Burden of Disease and health financing. Katie has helped produce IHME's Financing Global Health report since it was first published in 2009. She received an MPH from the University of Washington and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. Her work has been published in The Lancet, Health Affairs, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. You can follow her on Twitter @kleachkemon.