A report by the International AIDS Society revealed that the pandemic could shatter the progress in treating HIV, TB and many other diseases. Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Stop TB partnership and Imperial College London have predicted that disruptions caused by the Covid-19 outbreak could risk over one million extra deaths across three diseases.
Treatments for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria have all been disrupted due to medical efforts turning towards battling the coronavirus.
Dr Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society, said: “The social distancing efforts and lockdowns to control the spread of it [coronavirus], have disrupted HIV prevention and treatment programs and put vital HIV research on hold.”
Global Fund, a non profit organisation aimed at fighting AIDS, TB and malaria, found dramatic disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They discovered that across 106 of the countries it works in, 85 percent have reported disruptions to their HIV services, 78 percent to tuberculosis services and 73 to malaria services.
WHO have predicted that in sub-Saharan Africa a six-month disruption alone could cause a devastating extra 500,000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in 2021.
If this were to happen, the progress in HIV response would go back by more than 12 years.
Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director, said in May: “There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of 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.”
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This is because fewer people have access to bed nets to protect them from mosquito bites and also the limited access to testing or treatment when they do become infected.
Dr Pozniak said that we will “see transmission increase” but the true extent of the damage will only be discovered later “once we get back to widespread testing”.
He added: “It could be worse than they say and that would be disastrous.
“But we hope that the efforts organisations are putting in place will mitigate any loss.”
The efforts Dr Pozniak is highlighting include drop-off points for HIV and TB drugs as well as bed nets.
The impacts of the Ebola epidemic shed some light on how the coronavirus will affect the global response to other diseases.
Dr Pozniak said: “You can see from other pandemics that affected communities, you’re going to get disruption.”
The Yale School of Public Health estimated that an extra 10,000 people died from HIV, TB and malaria due to the Ebola epidemic.
Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, director of health and care for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent services, told CNN that the Ebola epidemic and Covid-19 pandemic “are very similar in certain ways”.
He continued: “I remember there was a huge spike for malaria, because malaria was not being diagnosed.”