COVID-19-Related Service Disruptions could Cause Half Million Deaths from HIV: UN

World Health Organization and UNAIDS warned that COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause 500,000 extra deaths from HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020-2021.

Gains made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV could be reversed, with new HIV infections among children up by as much as 104 percent, WHO revealed.

A modelling group convene by the WHO and UNAIDS has estimated that if efforts are not made to mitigate and overcome interruptions in health services and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, could cause hundreds of thousands of extra death from HIV/AIDS.

The modeling pointed out that a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could lead to more than 500 thousand extra deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, including from tuberculosis, in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020-2021.

This modelling indicated that communities and  partners need to take action now as the impact of a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could effectively set the clock on AIDS-related deaths back to 2008, when more than 950 thousand AIDS-related deaths were observed in the region.

“The terrible prospect of half a million more people in Africa dying of AIDS-related illnesses is like stepping back into history,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom said.

“We must also ensure that global supplies of tests and treatments continue to flow to the countries that need them,” he added.

Of course, he said, some countries are already taking important steps, by ensuring that people can collect bulk packs of treatment, and other essential commodities, including self-testing kits, from drop-off points, which relieves pressure on health services and the health workforce.

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 25.7 million people were living with HIV and 16.4 million (64 percent were taking antiretroviral therapy in 2018.

“The COVID-19 pandemic must not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV,” Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima said.

Winnie added that there is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19, but the right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other.

This research brought together five teams of modellers using different mathematical models to analyse the effects of various possible disruptions to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services caused by COVID-19.

In the six-month disruption scenario, estimates of excess AIDS-related deaths in one year ranged from 471 thousand to 673 thousand, making it inevitable that the world will miss the global 2020 target of fewer than 500 thousand AIDS-related deaths worldwide.

The research highlights the need for urgent efforts to ensure the continuity of HIV prevention and treatment services in order to avert excess HIV-related deaths and to prevent increases in HIV incidence during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Source: Ethiopia News agency

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