Zambia has a true HIV epidemic on its hands: its 16,590,000 population has 1,200,000 people living with HIV. (PLHIV), 85,000 of them children. 2016 saw 59,000 new infections, among them 8900 children. 380,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS.
The most affected groups are sex workers (56.4%) and prisoners (27.4%). Unprotected heterosexual sex drives the epidemic, with 90% of new infections recorded as a result of not using a condom; followed by people who inject drugs (PWID) and mother-to-child transmission.
Same-sex intercourse is illegal, making it difficult to gather information about men who have g sex with men (MSM), much less target them for education, testing and treatment.
Young women are infected at a higher rate than same-age men; they’re generally less educated.
Zambia has increased access to Antiretroviral therapy (ART), especially for pregnant women, but has not succeeded in significantly lowering the general rate of infections.
(Figures from UNAIDS & AVERT, 2016)
It’s difficult for young people with HIV in Zambia. Because of the big stigma associated with HIV it’s not easy to talk about this virus openly. Many young people are living with a huge secret.
Disclosure; sharing your HIV status with others, is a complicated and fraught affair. In Shambala’s portrait we see how she tackled this when she first told two friends about her HIV.
Alex and Mwamba conduct their own, tough fight with HIV.
But it’s good to see that these great teenagers are one in their strength, their lust for life and their desire not to let HIV dominate their lives. View the films about Shambala and Mwamba and read Alex’s book. These great youngsters have a lot to tell.
“What I’m doing today, right now, is called ‘disclosure.’”