HIV positive: gender and age trends in Kazakhstan
In terms of age statistics, according to the Head of the Epidemiology Department Lolita Ganina, the number of new cases of HIV infection has decreased among Kazakhstanis between 19 to 29 y. o., but increase among citizens aged 30 to 59.
“In the age structure of new HIV infected we observe an aging dynamics. In 2001, 15% of the total new cases took place among 15 to 19 year olds. At the moment there are only 1.5% new HIV positive in this age group. HIV infection cases have decreased by half in the age group of 20-29 year olds. Hence, the number of new cases increased in the groups of 30-39, 40-49 and 50-59 year olds,” Ganina said at the consultative meeting for prevention and care intervention of HIV.
In Kazakhstan, 58.3% of transmission of HIV infection happens through injection of drugs with shared needles. Heterosexual intercourse with an infected partner caused 36.3% of new HIV cases, while homosexual intercourse – 0.9%.
Gender distribution of HIV differs as well. Among men, HIV is mostly transmitted through shared needles. Women are mostly infected through sexual intercourse and injections.
“More than 50% of infected are unemployed. 23% are employed. 22.5% are arrested and prisoners. 1% of HIV infected citizens are in school. There is an increase of new HIV cases among pensioners. This is connected with the changes in ways of transmitting the infection. There are 0.7% of registered pensioners who were infected with HIV,” Ganina added.
Since 2008 there has been a growing number of women infected with HIV.
“In 2008, 43.2% of infected individuals were women and 56.8% were men. In 2001 the estimated gender ratio was 20% and 80% respectively,” the Head of the Epidemiology Department said.
At the moment, the number of infected women between 19 and 49 y.o. is two times lower than among men of the same age category. According to Ganina, there were 20 thousand people from 15 y.o and up with HIV by the end of 2013 in Kazakhstan.
“In comparison with 2001, the number of tests in 2014 increased by 2.5 times. 2 363 000 tests were conducted in 2014. In 2010-2013 the annual growth in the number of tests made 5.6%, while in 2014 there was a 2.6% against 2013. Hence, 14.3% of the total population of Kazakhstan undergoes has been covered HIV tests. But since certain groups of people are tested more than once a year, realistically speaking, only 10% of the population is tested for HIV,” Ganina said.
Drug abuse is the main force behind HIV in Kazakhstan. “There is less than 0.1% citizens with HIV. During 2010 and 2014 the percentage of HIV positive people among drug abusers ranged from 1.3 to 0.7%. In 2014, 26% of tested citizens were drug abusers,” she said.
Geographically, HIV covers the whole country. However, some regions have less HIV positive cases than others. Western regions of Kazakhstan have the lowest number of HIV cases, while Pavlodar, Karaganda, North Kazakhstan, South Kazakhstan, Kostanay and Almaty Oblasts have the highest rate of HIV.
20 thousand of HIV infected does not sound alarming if one does not take into account the total population of Kazakhstan, which is little over 17 million. Moreover, various social issues surrounding HIV still prevail in the country. The decreasing number of younger population infected with HIV certainly shows that awareness raising programs along with popularization of HIV testing has had a positive effect. Yet, there is much more work to be done in this regard.
By Gyuzel Kamalova