The United Nations has said significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS was underway until the coronavirus pandemic swept through the globe, and halted the process. According to the executive director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, the pandemic is threatening to throw the entire progress off course.
In the recent UN report on the HIV/AIDS fight, UNAIDS said the despite expanding HIV treatment coverage, in which 25 million of 38 million people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, progress is still slow. In the last two years, new infections have plateaued at 1.7 million per year and deaths have only dropped slightly. The UN says this may be because of poor access to HIV prevention and testing services by the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners, gay men, IV drug users, and sex workers.
However, the coronavirus pandemic poses another threat to the little progress made so far. The UN says that given the persistent lockdowns and shifting of healthcare personnel and services – including antiretrovirals – to patients with coronavirus, many may lose access to preventive and treatment services. According to estimates by the agency, if HIV patients are cut off from treatment for six months, at least half-million AIDS-related deaths may be recorded in sub-Saharan Africa.