Concern over disruption in HIV/Aids treatment because of Covid-19 focus
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CAPE TOWN - There has been a reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in Eastern and Southern Africa since 2010, because of a higher completion rate of lower secondary school, according to the new Global Aids Update.
Launched by UNAIDS ahead of the 2020 International Aids Conference this week, the global organisation called for the education of girls and secondary schooling for all children to combat HIV infections.
The report also found that people living with HIV in the Western Cape were more at risk of Covid-19-related death. According to UNAIDS, 690000 people died of HIV-related causes last year.
While this is the lowest figure since 1993, the organisation said this was still too high and that the world was not on track to meet the 2020 target.
“(The) human rights matter we are seeing (is) the rights of people living with HIV; the various groups: gay men, sex workers, transgender people, prisoners, migrants; these are the groups, among others, who are left behind and then who continue transmitting the virus, whether it is Covid-19 or HIV,” said executive director of UNAIDS and under-secretary-general of the UN Winnie Byanyima.
Cape Town youth clinics had 3.7 times more contraception visits and 1.9 times more voluntary counselling and testing visits than primary health-care facilities, according to the recent report. Byanyima expressed concern about disruption in HIV treatment.
“The impact for six months in Sub-Saharan Africa is huge and could also be just as bad in the other regions.
“We are seeing the prevention of services.”
An estimated total disruption of antiretroviral therapy for six months could lead to more than 500000 additional deaths from Aids-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 to 2021, according to the report.
Meanwhile, South African HIV/Aids activism organisation Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), said the health system has shifted focus from chronic illnesses like HIV to the coronavirus.
“Most of the focus is Covid-19 which is something that is new.
“It is the health system that has actually shifted from other chronic illnesses for example like HIV,” said prevention and treatment literacy co-ordinator at TAC Luckyboy Mkhondwane.
He highlighted that losing focus on HIV and TB could create another health crisis.
Western Cape head of health Dr Keith Cloete said they remained committed to essential services, and the provision of hormone replacement therapy treatment and HIV services have continued despite Covid-19.
“All service points were asked to provide medication for a 2-month supply of medication especially for HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension clients,” said Cloete.
The department is committed to the 90-90-90 UNAIDS drive, which is a treatment target to help end Aids.
With regards to Covid-19 interruptions with Aids patients, the department acknowledged the difficulty of movement during the lockdown.
The department is implementing increased focus on essential primary health care going forward to
counter potential drops of patients accessing care.