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Covid-19 impact: 73 countries are at risk of running out of HIV drugs says WHO

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 07, 2020 Published on July 07, 2020

‘WHO recommends that all countries prescribe ARVs for longer periods of time – up to six months while shoring up the supply chain for all medicines’

Seventy-three countries are at risk of running out of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines for HIV due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic according to the World Health Organization.

“WHO is deeply concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the global response to HIV. A new WHO survey showed access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed as a result of the pandemic. 73 countries have reported that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs),” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said at a press conference on Monday.

According to the latest survey by WHO, 24 reported that they have either a critically low stock of ARVs or are facing difficulties in terms of supply due to disruptions.

“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,” WHO said in an official press release.

According to a new report by UNAIDS, there were approximately 1.7 million new HIV infections, more than three times the global target.

HIV infections have reduced by 38 per cent since 2010 in eastern and southern Africa. However, infections in eastern Europe and central Asia have witnessed a 72 per cent rise since 2010. New HIV infections have also risen in the Middle East and North Africa, by 22 per cent and by 21 per cent in Latin America, the report said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more. A six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500 000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year (2020–2021), bringing the region back to 2008 AIDS mortality levels. Even a 20 per cent disruption could cause an additional 110,000 deaths,” UNAIDS said.

WHO has recently issued new guidelines in terms of managing HIV infections and meeting the global target. It has also advised countries to stock up on HIV drugs.

“To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on treatment access, WHO recommended that all countries prescribe ARVs for longer periods of time – up to six months while shoring up the supply chain for all medicines,” Ghebreyesus said.

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Published on July 07, 2020
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