A World Health Organisation (WHO) survey has found twenty-four countries are at a critical low-stock of life-saving antiretroviral medicines (ARMs) for treating HIV, as the coronavirus pandemic stirs every possible sphere of life.
Antiretroviral therapy which consists of different types of antiretroviral drugs is of critical importance in treating HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome). A combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs is administered in patients with HIV to suppress the virus from damaging the immune system.
According to the World Health Organisation survey, 73-countries are at risk of running out of stock of the antiretroviral medicines. Out of these countries, 24 have reported a critically low stock or supply disruptions of these life-saving meds, WHO says in a media release.
According to UNAIDS, the United Nations’ arm that fights AIDS epidemic, an estimated 1.7 million people were freshly infected with HIV in 2019. Thirty-eight million are currently living with AIDS while 690k died from AIDS and related illness.
The WHO survey was followed by a ‘modeling exercise‘ that was conducted with UNAIDS in May. The report forecasted AIDS-related mortality could double in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone if the pandemic continues to disrupt access to ARVs for six months.
Over the years, tenacious efforts by organizations like the WHO and UNAIDS, supported by governments of different countries, have bought down the number of people affected by AIDS significantly.
Data from WHO and UNAIDS report new HIV infections fell by 39% between 2000 and 2019. HIV-related facilities decreased by over half in the same time-frame, and 15 million lives were saved with antiretroviral drugs.
While pandemic has definitely exacerbated the management of prevailing epidemics like AIDS, the last two-years’ reports suggest progress to prevent new infections have been rather flat. HIV-related deaths dropped a tiny bit from 2018’s 730,000 to 690,000 in 2019, according to WHO.
“The findings of this survey are deeply concerning,” WHO Director-General said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “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.”
One of the ways many countries are coping up with the disruption of the healthcare system, especially when it comes to AIDS is by “multi-month dispensing” which is a policy where medicines are prescribed at once for longer durations, up to six-months. To date, 129 nations have adopted the policy. The findings come ahead of the International AIDS Society’s bi-annual conference.