The global HIV epidemic is not over and could accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a devastating impact on communities and countries. In 2019, there were still 38 million people living with HIV. One in five people living with HIV were unaware of their infection and one in three people receiving HIV treatment experienced an interruption in the supply of HIV treatment, testing and prevention services, particularly children and teenagers. In 2019, 690,000 people died from HIV-related causes and 1.7 million people were newly infected, with nearly two in three (62%) of these new infections occurring among key populations and their partners.
Despite considerable efforts, progress in scaling up HIV services had already stalled before the COVID-19 pandemic. Slowing progress means the world will miss the “90-90-90” targets for 2020, which were to ensure that: 90% of people living with HIV know their status; 90% of people diagnosed with HIV receive treatment; and 90% of all people receiving treatment achieved viral suppression. If these milestones are not met, it will be even more difficult to achieve the end of AIDS by 2030.
The breakdown of essential HIV services due to COVID-19 threatens lives. COVID makes it difficult and dangerous for frontline health workers to provide continuous, high-quality HIV services to all who need them. Illness and movement restrictions make it difficult for people living with HIV to access services. Economic disruptions caused by COVID can make HIV-related services unaffordable or inaccessible. And the pandemic can interfere with supply chains and service delivery. For example, in July 2020, a third of people on HIV treatment had experienced drug stock-outs or supply interruptions. Such disruptions in supply are devastating; a WHO and UNAIDS modeling study has shown that a six-month hiatus in access to HIV drugs could lead to a doubling of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.
Now is the time for us to leapfrog again in our response to work together to end COVID-19 and get back on track to end HIV by 2030. On the Day 2020 World AIDS Fight, WHO is calling on world leaders and citizens to come together in “global solidarity” to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 on the HIV response. The WHO has chosen to focus on “Global solidarity, resilient HIV servicesas the WHO theme for World AIDS Day this year.
The key actions are:
- Renewing our fight to end HIV
The global AIDS response has slowed down: now is the time to invest, innovate in HIV services with broader healthcare and pandemic response to get back on track to end to HIV by 2030. Falling short of the global HIV targets for 2020 should not be a setback but a renewed call to do better.
- Use innovative HIV services to ensure continuity of HIV care.
There are many new approaches that countries are adopting to provide HIV care during the pandemic. The WHO has recommended multi-month prescriptions of HIV drugs to protect the health of people on HIV treatment and to reduce the burden on overstretched health services.
- Engage and protect our nurses, midwives and community health workers
We urge policymakers to ensure that frontline health workers, nurses, midwives and community health workers are engaged and protected when delivering HIV and COVID-19 services.
Prioritize vulnerable people – young people and key populations
We must ensure that children, adolescents and members of key and vulnerable populations affected by HIV do not fall through the cracks of healthcare disruptions during COVID-19. Key populations include people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people in prison who are disproportionately affected by HIV.
Please join us for a webinar to celebrate world aids day on December 1, 2020 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Geneva time (Central European time). The event will cover global efforts to ensure global solidarity and resilient HIV services, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speakers will include:
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO)
Honorable Lizzy Nkosi, Minister of Health, Kingdom of Eswatini
Mr Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Ms Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Joint United Nations Program on HIV (UNAIDS)
Dr JVR Prasada Rao, Former Secretary of Health, India and former SG AIDS Envoy to Asia and the Pacific
Dr. Ren MinghuiAssistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage/Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases, WHO
Dr. Meg Doherty, Director, Global Programs for HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections, WHO
Ms. Cindy Amaiza, National Coordinator, Y+ Kenya
Mrs. Sasha Volgina, Program Manager, Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+)
Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, President, International AIDS Society (IAS)
Mrs. Erica Burton, Senior Advisor, International Council of Nurses (ICN)
Doctor Alex Schneider, Founder, Life4me+
Mr Asghar Satti, National Coordinator, Association of People Living with HIV (APLHIV), Pakistan
The webinar is open to everyone without registration. Please click on the following link to access the ZOOM webinar:
To connect to WHO World AIDS Day Event via this ZOOM link