By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The World Health Organisation ((WHO), said the Covid-19 pandemic is making it more challenging for countries to provide HIV/AIDS services, particularly in areas affected by conflict, disasters, outbreaks and rapid population growth.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated this in her message to mark the 2020 World AIDS Day.
She added that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the African Regions are not reducing fast enough to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending AIDS epidemics by 2030.
“Children living with HIV are not being adequately identified for HIV treatment. Girls and women aged 15–24 years account for 37% of all new HIV infections, and stigma and discrimination especially against key populations continues to create barriers to service access.”
She added that there are 38 million people living with HIV globally, and that 67% of them are living in the WHO African Region.
She said in 2019, more than 1 million people in the Region were newly infected with HIV, accounting for 60% of the global total, and sadly, 440,000 people in the Region died from HIV-related causes.
Moeti, said the theme of World AIDS Day this year is “global solidarity and shared responsibility”.
She said the theme is apt “because in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing how important it is for the world to come together, with determined leadership from governments and communities to sustain and expand access to essential services, including HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.”
Moeti further said that despite challenges, significant progress is happening in African countries. “2020 is a milestone year towards ending AIDS epidemics and 81% of people living with HIV know their status. Among them, 70% of adults and 53% of children are receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART). Eighty-five percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV are on ART, which protects their health and prevents HIV transmission to their newborn infants.
“This World AIDS Day, I commend the governments, partners and communities who have contributed to the progress on HIV in the Region, and come up with innovative ways to keep services going during the COVID-19 pandemic. “