The supply of HIV medicines has been severely disrupted in some countries due to Covid-19 pandemic putting the lives of many serious patients at risk, warned a new survey of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The survey conducted ahead of the International AIDS Society's biannual conference, said 73 countries have warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines amid the pandemic.
Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines, according to the report.
The survey follows a modeling exercise convened by the 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.
The findings of this survey are deeply concerning," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO. "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."
According to data released today from UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39 percent between 2000 and 2019. HIV-related deaths fell by 51 percent 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.