Covid-19 pandemic slows progress in fight against HIV/Aids
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Pretoria - The Covid-19 pandemic has watered down efforts to reach the targets that governments and health organisations had set in the fight against HIV/Aids.
Today marks World Aids Day, which provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and to show support for people living with the virus.
The day, established in 1988, is also meant to commemorate those who have died from Aids-related illness. The theme of World Aids Day 2021 is “End inequalities. End Aids”, with a focus on reaching people left behind.
According to the Joint UN Programme on Aids (UNAids), HIV still threatens the world: “Today, the world is off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end Aids by 2030, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat Aids, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.”
UNAids said governments must now move from commitment to action, by promoting inclusive social and economic growth. “They must eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices in order to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities. It is time for governments to keep their promises. They must act now, and we must make them accountable.”
The US Agency for International Development Southern Africa mission director, Andy Karas, said many gains of the past few years were lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The country was on the brink of reaching the 90-90-90 HIV treatment targets, however the Covid-19 pandemic hindered progress.”
The 90-90-90 HIV target means 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
According to the Department of Health, HIV testing came down by an estimated 46%, and new patients starting on antiretrovirals dipped by an estimated 35%. “We must now redouble our efforts to get back on track and tackle HIV, TB and Covid-19 together so that we can support the South African people to build healthy and prosperous futures,” Karas said.
A report by UNAids on the effects of the pandemic on the HIV response revealed that early lockdowns left people with HIV who were away from home unable to access their treatment, and the link to HIV treatment was broken, which saw newly diagnosed patients not starting their treatment.
The report also suggested that the global increase in viral load testing slowed considerably.