A new report has shown that deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria could double if systems for health are overwhelmed, treatment and prevention programmes are disrupted and resources are diverted.
The report titled ‘Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on Countries Affected by HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria’ was released by the Global Fund on Wednesday.
The report stated that the Global Fund partnership has helped save more than 32 million lives and cut HIV, TB and malaria deaths by nearly half since 2002.
It, however, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse that progress.
It estimates that annual deaths toll from HIV, TB and malaria could be set back to levels not seen since the peak of the epidemic, wiping out nearly two decades of progress in the worst-hit regions.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is an international financing organisation founded by billionaire American couple, Bill and Melinda Gates; deceased former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan; Amir Attaran and Jeffrey Sachs.
As of 2018, it had disbursed about $1.1 billion in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, with its investments in Nigeria one of its biggest.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in an analysis on Monday said COVID-19 pandemic could affect the availability and distribution of antiretroviral drugs used in treating HIV.
The analysis indicates that although 24.5 million people were on antiretroviral therapy at the end of June 2019, millions of people could be at risk of harm—both to themselves and others owing to an increased risk of HIV transmission—if they cannot continue to access their treatment.
The report highlights the impact of COVID-19 and resources needed to protect progress against these diseases that still kill more than 2.4 million people a year.
It estimates that countries affected by HIV, tuberculosis and malaria urgently need US$28.5 billion to protect the progress achieved in the past two decades.
“Mounting an effective response to COVID-19 and mitigating the impact on HIV, TB and malaria will require significantly more resources than have been made available thus far.
“The Global Fund has worked with partners to estimate the likely needs in the countries where the Global Fund invests.
“We estimate that approximately US$28.5 billion is required for the next 12 months to adapt HIV, TB and malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, to train and protect health workers, to reinforce systems for health so they don’t collapse, and to respond to COVID-19 itself, particularly through testing, tracing and isolation and by providing treatments as they become available (this does not include the cost of a vaccine,” the report noted.
The Executive Director of the Global Fund, Peter Sands, said the COVID-19 pandemic has hugely affected the fight against these diseases.
“The stakes are extraordinarily high. The knock-on effects of COVID-19 on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria and other infectious diseases could be catastrophic.
“Mitigating that impact will require swift action, extraordinary levels of leadership and collaboration, and significant extra resources. Above all, we must leave no one behind,” Mr Sands said.
The report also indicates the COVID-19 pandemic poses a fundamental threat to the poorest communities afflicted with HIV, TB and malaria.
“Not only are they extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 itself, but they are likely to be even more at risk from HIV, TB and malaria.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 will also fall most heavily on such communities, so nutritional deficiencies and the collapse of services will exacerbate their susceptibility to disease.”
The report shows that the Global Fund donated US$1 billion to support countries as they respond to the pandemic and adapt their HIV, TB and malaria programmes.
However, these funds will be almost fully deployed by July 2020.
The Global Fund urges governments, technical partners, civil society, private sector, faith-based organisations and communities to work collaboratively to overcome the impact of the pandemic.