The UN programme for AIDS has stated that the world will see about five lakh more deaths from AIDS-related illnesses if health services and supply of drugs are interrupted during COVID-19 pandemic. The UNAIDS said that a six month disruption of antiretroviral therapy will adversely affect the people suffering from the disease in Sub Saharan Africa.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima stated that that COVID-19 pandemic must not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV. There is high risk that the hard earned gains of AIDS response are sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19. He also mentioned that the “right to health” meant that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other.
Meanwhile, World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the prospect of half a million more people in dying of AIDS-related illnesses was like stepping back into history. He said that supplies of tests and treatments should continue to flow to the countries that need them.
In sub-Saharan Africa, about 25.7 million people are living with HIV and 16.4 million are under antiretroviral therapy in 2018. These people are at risk once treatment is interrupted due to disruption of services and non availability of antiretroviral therapy.
Disrupted the AIDS services will also reverse gains made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. New HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 43 per cent from 250 000 in 2010 to 140 000 in 2018. This was because of good HIV services for mothers and their children in the region. If services are disrupted for COVID-19 for six months, then it could lead to a rise in child HIV infections.