Global toll of HIV expected to rise due to Covid-19

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Yen Feng

Yen Feng

Yen is the editor of asia.gay. You can reach him at editor@asia.gay.

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Up to nearly 300,000 new HIV infections may surface between now and 2022, says a new report published by UNAIDS.

The United Nations agency released the report ahead of World Aids Day, which falls on Dec 1, citing new data that showed the pandemic’s impact on the global HIV response. Apart from the increased number of infections, the report also predicted up to 148,000 more Aids-related deaths.

The agency’s warning that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused countries to miss their 2020 targets on the Aids crisis is not new. Earlier in July, it said HIV targets for 2020 would not be reached, owing in part “to deeply unequal access to antiretroviral therapy and service disruptions” caused by the pandemic.

“Every day in the next decade, decisive action is needed to get the world back on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS.

“The progress made by many needs to be shared by all communities in all countries.”

In the latest report, UNAIDS said the collective failure to invest in “comprehensive, rights-based and person-centred HIV” responses comes at a “terrible price”.

From 2015 to 2020, there were 3.5 million more HIV infections and 820,000 more Aids-related deaths, than if the world were on-track to achieve the 2020 targets.

New targets for 2025

The UNAIDS document also contains a new set of proposed targets for 2025, which it has based on programmes in countries that have been the most successful in overcoming HIV.

These programmes are centred on key efforts that focus on a high coverage of HIV and reproductive and sexual health services, along with the removal of punitive laws, policies, stigma, and discrimination.

If these targets are met, the world will be back on track to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, the agency said.

Read the full report here.

A child is infected every 100 seconds

In a separate report released by Unicef in November 2020, the organisation also known as the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers.

“Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic”, said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.

According to the report, nearly 320,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV and 110,000 children died of Aids last year. That is approximately one child or young person under the age of 20 infected every one minute and 40 seconds.

Said Ms Fore: “Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from Aids. This was even before Covid-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk.”

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