KAMPALA, Uganda– UN agencies have warned that decades of progress in treating AIDS, malaria, and other illnesses could be reversed especially with the Coronavirus pandemic putting a health strain on various healthcare systems worldwide.
In many countries, there has been a notable allocation of resources to the fight against this pandemic at the expense of the treatment of other illnesses. Patients with illnesses such as HIV, Tuberculosis, or malaria risk having their treatments interrupted.
Two thirds of the global population living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is feared that hundreds of thousands could die if their anti-retroviral treatments are interrupted.
UGANET has championed the voice of human rights based approaches to health and HIV and thus carried out a number advocacy campaigns and access to justice initiatives that have contributed to supporting vulnerable persons but also influencing policy change in response to HIV/AIDS.
While UGANET applauds the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it notes that there is a risk of resource allocation to the fight against the pandemic negatively impacting other critical health areas maternity, and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
“There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19, but the right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other”, said Winnie Byanyima, the head of UNAIDS.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged all countries to ensure that vital health services remain open.
“This is an avoidable scenario and not a prediction. It is a wake-up call to identify ways to sustain all vital services. Despite attention being focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, we must still ensure that global supplies of treatments for both TB and HIV reach the countries and communities that need them most. We should save people from both COVID and HIV, and other illnesses,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.
In the latest figures, 26 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have HIV. 16.4 million received HIV antiretroviral therapy in 2018, 470,000 died of HIV-related illnesses in 2018, and the UN estimates 673,000 additional deaths within a year if therapies are disrupted for six months.
UGANET therefore urges the ministry of health and other key partners not to relax efforts in combatting HIV/AIDS despite all focus being redirected and targeted towards fighting off the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to healthcare and medication for people affected by HIV, malaria and tuberculosis is important if we are to protect the progress made in the fight against these diseases.