COVID-19 threatens access to HIV medicine

—WHO concerned over delaying of AIDS response

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted several key services including, maternal health and childcare services in the past six months.

Experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) are now focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of life-saving treatment for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), as AIDS response has halted in some countries.

WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Progress is stalling because HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most,” Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated.

Many HIV-related deaths result from infections that take advantage of weak immune systems, including viral infections like hepatitis and COVID-19 and fungal infections, including histoplasmosis.

In the Region of the Americas, including South America, WHO says histoplasmosis is highly prevalent and as much 4,500 deaths are reported each year among people living with HIV.

Seventy-three countries across the globe have reported risks of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines for HIV treatment in their country. Closure of ports, failure of suppliers to deliver the medication and limited access to health services are among reasons for this fall-out.

“WHO is deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the global response to HIV. A new WHO survey showed access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed as a result of the pandemic,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said.

Disruption of HIV/AIDS services may result in death for some victims, as well as an increase in new cases.

The WHO recommends that countries keep HIV testing, prevention and treatment services running. Also prescribing medicines for longer periods can help to mitigate the problem. Patients can be prescribed their ARVs for up to six months, while chain supplies are fully functioning.

According to figures from UNAIDS, a total of 38 million people is said to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, with 1.7 million new infections in 2019 alone.