World

UN agencies estimate 5,00,000 deaths in Africa from HIV due to Covid-19 disruption

Hemani Seth Mumbai | Updated on May 12, 2020 Published on May 12, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS on Monday released a joint report stating that a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy owing to Covid-19 could lead to over 500 000 additional deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020–2021.

A modelling group convened by the agencies has estimated that a lack of efforts to mitigate and overcome interruptions in health services and supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic can cause additional deaths from diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis in Africa.

“There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the 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”, said Winnie Byanyima, the head of UNAIDS.

UNAIDS is the UN body created to combat the diseases and eradicate it by 2030.

“The Covid-19 pandemic must not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV”, Byanyima said.

“People would continue to die from the disruption in large numbers for at least another five years, with an annual average excess in deaths of 40% over the next half a decade. In addition, HIV service disruptions could also have some impact on HIV incidence in the next year,” according to the report.

“The terrible prospect of half a million more people in Africa dying of AIDS-related illnesses is like stepping back into history,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

In 2018 an estimated 25.7 million people were living with HIV and 16.4 million people, 64 per cent of the population, were taking anti-retroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa. As HIV services are either closed or are unable to supply anti-retroviral therapy owing to supply disruptions caused by competing needs to support the Covid-19 response, these people are now at higher risk according to the report.

“Doctors are able to control a person’s HIV load through treatment, bringing it to an undetectable level, keeping that person healthy and preventing onward transmission of the virus. However, when antiretroviral therapy is not conducted regularly, the viral load increases, impacting the person’s health and increasing the risk of transmission. The disruptions could also increase the risk of mother to child transmission of HIV.

“We must read this as a wake-up call to countries to identify ways to sustain all vital health services. For HIV, some countries are already taking important steps, for example ensuring that people can collect bulk packs of treatment, and other essential commodities, including self-testing kits, from drop-off points, which relieves pressure on health services and the health workforce. We must also ensure that global supplies of tests and treatments continue to flow to the countries that need them,” the WHO Chief said.

Published on May 12, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.