HIV in the age of COVID-19

As the world marks the 40th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we ask what impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on HIV programmes around the world. Talha Burki reports.
Last year, UNAIDS warned that if the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 6 months, sub-Saharan Africa could see an additional 500 000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. Thankfully, the world has avoided such a catastrophe (at least, for now). The global HIV/AIDS data for 2020 have not yet been released, but the indications are that provision of ART has largely been maintained. Nonetheless, the pandemic has had a dramatic effect on HIV/AIDS programmes. Vital services have been suspended and fewer people have been initiated on ART. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has stated that “there is no scenario in which we can achieve the progress we want against HIV...while COVID-19 remains unchecked and systems for health are threatened”.

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