The SADC region bears the brunt of the global AIDS epidemic. The epidemics in the region are diverse, with varying levels of adult HIV prevalence fuelled by behavioural, social, cultural, biomedical and economic factors. HIV is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the region.
SADC Heads of State and Government have made several commitments to fight the AIDS epidemic and other communicable diseases. They include the Maseru Declaration (2003) as well as other commitments such as the Abuja Declaration (2001 and 2006), the Maputo Declaration (2005), the Brazzaville Commitment (2006) and the Millennium Development Goals.
In order to implement some of those commitments, the SADC region developed the SADC Regional Prevention Strategy and Action plan to support Member States’ efforts to significantly reduce the incidence of new HIV infections. The review notes modest achievements in the priority areas of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), condom use, management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV testing and counselling (HTC), and behaviour change. Unfortunately, the progress has not been sufficient to reduce HIV incidence to an extent that would reverse the AIDS epidemic.
In order to successfully implement the prevention agenda, it is vital that as many people as possible test for HIV and know their status so that they can initiate appropriate prevention, support or care and treatment.
However, surveys in sub-Saharan Africa have shown that very few people test for HIV. Knowledge of one’s HIV status may be a significant tool for prevention of HIV and AIDS (if supported with strong links to prevention services) and can help in ensuring timely access to treatment, care and support.