WHO warns access to HIV medicines severely impacted by COVID-19 as AIDS response stalls

Although we are headquartered in Washington D.C. USA, our reporters and editors are working around the globe to cover what you care about. Become our exclusive member and help us keep our quality news free and available for all.

Seventy-three countries have warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new WHO survey conducted ahead of the International AIDS Society’s biannual conference. 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 convened by WHO and UNAIDS in May which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.

In 2019, an estimated 8.3 million people were benefiting from ARVs in the 24 countries now experiencing supply shortages. This represents about one third (33%) of all people taking HIV treatment globally.  While there is no cure for HIV, ARVs can control the virus and prevent onward sexual transmission to other people.

A failure of suppliers to deliver ARVs on time and a shut-down of land and air transport services, coupled with limited access to health services within countries as a result of the pandemic, were among the causes cited for the disruptions in the survey.

“The findings of this survey are deeply concerning,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “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.

Stalled progress

According to data released today from UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39% between 2000 and 2019. HIV-related deaths fell by 51% over the same time period, and some 15 million lives were saved through the use of antiretroviral therapy.

However, progress towards global targets is stalling. Over the last two years, the annual number of new HIV infections has plateaued at 1.7 million and there was only a modest reduction in HIV-related death, from 730 000 in 2018 to 690 000 in 2019.  Despite steady advances in scaling up treatment coverage – with more than 25 million people in need of ARVs receiving them in 2019 – key 2020 global targets will be missed.

HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most. Improved targeting of proven prevention and testing services will be critical to reinvigorate the global response to HIV.

WHO guidance and country action

COVID-19 risks exacerbating the situation. WHO recently developed guidance for countries on how to safely maintain access to essential health services during the pandemic, including for all people living with or affected by HIV. The guidance encourages countries to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment through “multi-month dispensing,” a policy whereby medicines are prescribed for longer periods of time – up to six months. To date, 129 countries have adopted this policy.

Countries are also mitigating the impact of the disruptions by working to maintain flights and supply chains, engaging communities in the delivery of HIV medicines, and working with manufacturers to overcome logistics challenges.

New opportunities to treat HIV in young children

At the IAS conference, WHO will highlight how global progress in reducing HIV-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up support and services for populations disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including young children. In 2019, there were an estimated 95 000 HIV-related deaths and 150 000 new infections among children. Only about half (53%) of children in need of antiretroviral therapy were receiving it.  A lack of optimal medicines with suitable pediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV.

Last month, WHO welcomed a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a new 5mg formulation of dolutegravir (DTG) for infants and children older than 4 weeks and weighing more than 3 kg. This decision will ensure that all children have rapid access to an optimal drug that, to date, has only been available for adults, adolescents and older children. WHO is committed to fast-tracking the prequalification of DTG as a generic drug so that it can be used as soon as possible by countries to save lives. 

“Through a collaboration of multiple partners, we are likely to see generic versions of dolutegravir for children by early 2021, allowing for a rapid reduction in the cost of this medicine,” said Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes at WHO. “This will give us another new tool to reach children living with HIV and keep them alive and healthy.”

Tackling opportunistic infections

Many HIV-related deaths result from infections that take advantage of an individual’s weakened immune system. These include bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis, viral infections like hepatitis and COVID-19, parasitic infections such as toxoplasmosis and fungal infections, including histoplasmosis.

Today, WHO is releasing new guidelines for the diagnosis and management of histoplasmosis, among people living with HIV. Histoplasmosis is highly prevalent in the WHO Region of the Americas, where as many as 15 600 new cases and 4500 deaths are reported each year among people living with HIV. Many of these deaths could be prevented through timely diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

In recent years, the development of highly sensitive diagnostic tests has allowed for a rapid and accurate confirmation of histoplasmosis and earlier initiation of treatment. However, innovative diagnostics and optimal treatments for this disease are not yet widely available in resource-limited settings.

Read full article

TODAY NEWS AFRICA
TODAY NEWS AFRICAhttps://todaynewsafrica.com
TODAY NEWS AFRICA is registered and headquartered in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Our publication is widely read, respected and influential. By providing daily answers to questions our readers have about the people, the businesses and the continent of Africa, we are reaching a diverse and wide audience from around the world. Our readers, many of them world leaders, trust us because we are independent and truthful. Our advertisers understand the difference between news, views and ads. Contact us: contactus@todaynewsafrica.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending Now

MOST POPULAR

Nigeria-born former Florida State basketball big man Michael Ojo dies of heart attack in Serbia at 27

Nigeria-born former Florida State basketball big man Michael Ojo died of a heart attack in Serbia on Friday. He was only...

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara says he’s now running for re-election after saying he would not seek third term

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara announced on Thursday evening that he was running for re-election. The presidential election would take place...

South African President appoints committee to investigate COVID-19 corruption

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has, following a decision taken by Cabinet at its meeting of Wednesday, August 5, 2020, appointed...

68 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 in Africa have recovered while five countries – South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria account for 75 percent of all cases

About 68 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 in Africa have recovered, the Africa CDC announced at a briefing on Thursday.

WHO ramps up COVID-19 support to hotspot countries in Africa

The first members of a surge team of health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa,...
- Advertisement -

LATEST STORIES

Russia now has coronavirus vaccine and mass vaccination begins by October, Minister says

Russia now has a coronavirus vaccine and mass vaccination would begin by October, reports said on Saturday, after a vaccine completed...

South Africa tops 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 50 percent of all cases in Africa

South Africa surpassed 500,000 coronavirus cases on Saturday, more than half of all the cases in Africa. According to the...

Nigeria-born former Florida State basketball big man Michael Ojo dies of heart attack in Serbia at 27

Nigeria-born former Florida State basketball big man Michael Ojo died of a heart attack in Serbia on Friday. He was only...

IMF approves disbursement of $152.61 million to Gabon to respond to COVID-19

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday approved a disbursement of $152.61 million to Gabon to respond to COVID-19 economic fallout.

WHO sends 43 health experts to South Africa as COVID-19 pandemic worsens

The South African COVID-19 response will soon be bolstered by a surge team of health experts from the World Health Organization...

[/read_more]

Read full article

error: Alert: Content is protected !!
Share
Tweet
Share
Reddit
WhatsApp