COVID-19 takes severe toll on fight against HIV, TB: Report
The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the global fight against diseases like the HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria last year, according to a report by the Global Fund. The Global Fund is an international organization working to end the said epidemics. In 2020, the Fund's report results were unfavorable for the first time in the history of the body. Here are more details.
"The 2020 numbers force a different focus. They confirm what we feared might happen when COVID-19 struck," said Peter Sands, the Executive Director of the Global Fund. "The impact of COVID-19 on the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria and the communities we support has been devastating. For the first time in the history of the global fund, key programmatic results have gone backwards."
Testing for HIV dropped by 22% in 2020, compared to data from the previous year, according to the report. People reached with HIV prevention programs and services declined by 11% while mothers receiving medicines to prevent transmitting HIV to their babies dropped by 4.5%. Nevertheless, 8.8% more people received the life-saving antiretroviral therapy for HIV last year.
The report adds there has been a "catastrophic" impact on the global fight against tuberculosis. The number of people treated for drug-resistant TB dropped by 19% in countries where the Global Fund invests. Meanwhile, those treated for extensively drug-resistant TB decreased by as much as 37%, compared to 2019. Around one million fewer people were treated for the disease last year.
However, the impact on malaria prevention and treatment was not as alarming as it was for the other two diseases. Even though testing fell, "prevention activities remained stable or increased compared to 2019," the report stated. And the number of mosquito nets distributed by the Global Fund rose by 17% to 188 million while structures covered by indoor residual spraying increased by 3%.
Health services and programs were affected because of the following reasons: Local and national-level lockdowns around the world. Curbs on gathering of people due to COVID-19. The reluctance of health workers to attend people suspected of having TB or malaria - which have several symptoms similar to that of COVID-19. Other reasons included transport issues and people not seeking health services as usual.
In 2020, the Fund disbursed $4.2 billion in the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria, also approving an additional $980 million in funding for COVID-19 response. The Global Fund said that since its inception in 2002, it has saved 44 million lives and the number of deaths caused due to the said diseases fell by 46% in the countries where it has a presence.