By Celestine Ajayi
he COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic consequences for HIV containment, with human and financial resources diverted, prevention programmes compromised and supply changes disrupted.
However, even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the fight against HIV/AIDS was progressing too slowly worldwide, the UN programme UNAIDS and other aid organisations warned at a news conference on Friday.
According to UNAIDS, people infected with HIV have twice the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general population.
However, most people living with HIV still do not have access to vaccines against the Coronavirus.
Two-thirds of all people with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, where only three percent of the population has received at least one COVID-19 jab by mid-year.
“COVID-19 has been the most significant setback in the fight against HIV,’’ said the executive director of the Global Fund Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Peter Sands.
According to the Global Fund, HIV testing dropped by 22 per cent, holding back HIV treatment initiation in most countries, while the number of people reached with HIV prevention programs and services declined by 11 per cent.
The pandemic also had a devastating impact on the fight against tuberculosis (TB).
In 2020, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in the countries where the Global Fund invests dropped by 19 per cent.
According to UN figures, around 80 million people worldwide have been infected with the HIV virus since the first AIDS cases were reported in 1981, and 36.3 million people have died.