COVID-19: Africa at risk of 500,000 HIV deaths in 1 year –UNAIDS

As Nigeria and the global community continue to battle COVID- 19 pandemic, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), has said the disruptions in HIV treatment occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, could cause more than 500,000 additional HIV related deaths in sub Saharan Africa within the next one year.


This was contained in a new report launched yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, which also noted that the global AIDS epidemic showed that the 2020 target to end the scourge would not be reached due to unequal progress.


While raising concerns that global responses achieved could be drawn backwards by 10 years or more, Africa was highlighted to be at risk of heading back to the AIDS mortality level witnessed as far back as 2008.


The report, which further stated that in 2019, no fewer than 690 000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses, even as 12.6 million of the 38 million people living with HIV were not accessing the lifesaving treatment, predicted the next one year could be devastative, as the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted negatively on the AIDS response and could disrupt even more.


The report reads in part: “A new report by UNAIDS shows remarkable, but highly unequal, progress, notably in expanding access to antiretroviral therapy. Because the achievements have not been shared equally within and between countries, the global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached.


“The report, “Seizing the moment,” warns that even the gains made could be lost and progress further stalled if we fail to act. It highlights just how urgent it is for countries to double down and act with greater urgency to reach the millions still left behind.


“A six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500 000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year (2020–2021), bringing the region back to 2008 AIDS mortality levels. Even a 20% disruption could cause an additional 110 000 deaths.


“Missed targets have resulted in 3.5 million more HIV infections and 820 000 more AIDS-related deaths since 2015 than if the world was on track to meet the 2020 targets.


In addition, the response could be set back further, by 10 years or more, if the COVID-19 pandemic results in severe disruptions to HIV services.”


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