The HIV epidemic in Malawi has been on the decline. A study indicates that between 2000-2004 the prevalence of HIV dropped from 26 percent to 15 percent in urban areas among pregnant women and reduced by 40 percent among women aged 15-24 years. The study linked substantial positive changes in sexual behavior—such as increased condom use and fewer sex partners—to the decline.

In the 2000-2004 study period, the percentage of adolescents aged 15–19 years who first had sex before age 15 decreased from 29 percent to 18 percent among males and 17 percent to 14 percent among females. The proportion of men who had sex with multiple partners reduced from 15 percent to nine percent among men aged 15–49 years and from 12 percent to seven percent among young adults aged 15–24 years. Only one percent of women reported having two or more partners and this did not change between 2000-2004. The rate of men with multiple partners that used condoms increased from 14 percent to 20 percent among men aged 15–49 years and from 27 percent to 35 percent among young men aged 15–24 years.

“The declines in prevalence in urban areas were associated with the behaviour changes and…if the changes are maintained, this will have cumulatively averted 140,000 HIV infections by 2010,” the study concluded.

1. Bello G, Simwaka B, Ndhlovu T, et al. Evidence for changes in behaviour leading to reductions in HIV prevalence in urban Malawi. Sexually Transmitted Infections, published online 23 March 2011. (open access)