#AIDS2020Virtual:Impact of COVID19 on HIV services a worry
The world’s largest conference on HIV opened today in a special virtual format due to COVID-19. It kicked off with a focus on the links between the two viruses, and a recognition of global debates around racism.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima presented findings from the organisation’s 2020 Global AIDS Update to delegates.
The report, entitled Seizing the Moment: Tackling entrenched inequalities to end epidemics, includes a special chapter outlining concerns about the impact the pandemic could have on the supply of generic antiretroviral medicines to low-and-middle income countries.
COVID-19 disrupting supply chains
It illustrates that COVID-19 lockdowns disrupted procurement, supply and distribution chains for antiretrovirals and other essential health commodities.
The closing of international and local borders, and shutting down of all freight transport added to the delays of HIV medicines supply.
Ending Aids as public-health threat by 2030 out of reach
The new UNAIDS Global Report shows that even before COVID-19 spread the world was nowhere near its goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
“We cannot drop the ball on HIV. We must double down and increase our efforts to hold governments and policy makers to account. Epidemics run along the fault lines of inequalities and we can and must close the gaps,” Byanyima said.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) survey supported UNAIDS findings. It shows significant disruptions to access to HIV treatment.
Warnings of ARV stock-outs in dozens of countries
The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said seventy-three countries have warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretrovirals (ARVs). Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines.
The survey follows a modelling exercise by the WHO and UNAIDS in May. It forecast that a six-month disruption of access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year alone.
Limited access to health services and the disruption to supply chains due to lockdown regulations were factors contributing to this.
Multi-month dispensing policy suggested
The WHO has recommended that countries limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment through “multi-month dispensing,” policy. This means medicines are prescribed for longer periods of time – up to six months. To date, 129 countries have adopted this policy.
Countries are also working to keep flights and supply chains, engaging communities in the delivery of HIV medicines, and working with manufacturers to overcome logistics challenges.
Dr Tedros said the findings of this survey are deeply concerning.
“Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.”
In May Health-e News reported that lockdown regulations was causing a high percentage of HIV-positive South Africans to miss their clinic appointments to collect their medication.
Aids 2020 will spend time finding solutions to the current disruptions of HIV services. The five-day conference will also look at other issues affecting HIV services around the globe. – Health-e News