COVID-19 Interferes With Fight Against HIV/AIDS

A new survey conducted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS found the coronavirus lockdown, which has limited access to education and protection from sexual violence, has interfered with the fight against HIV infections in women and girls increasing the rate of cases. 

“Lockdowns have brought a higher risk of violence against girls,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS. “Millions are out of school today. Women in the informal sector have had their income taken away.”

Prior to the pandemic, progress was made in helping women in sub-Saharan Africa fight HIV infections through a multitude of programs. The fear now is the progress made will be hindered by the lack of access to medical supplies and cost half a million HIV-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by 2021.

Gracia Violeta Ross of the Bolivian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS said she is concerned the focus has solely been on fighting COVID-19 and health services being redistributed to the virus despite the continued fight against HIV and AIDS. “Those of us who survived HIV and fought for life and access to treatment and care cannot afford losing the gains that took so much effort to win,” she said in a press briefing.

Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini echoed Ross’ statement at the press briefing, saying, “We must not forget the HIV/AIDS response. We must ensure that no one is left behind.”

The Realist Woman’s take:

This story is incredibly important because it sounds the alarm on the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis even amidst a pandemic. Of course, responding to COVID-19 is of the utmost importance right now, but we cannot forget how devastating the HIV/AIDS crisis still is after all of these years. The lives of millions of women and girls depend on us responding to their right to an education and protecting them from sexual violence, two things that drastically affect their chances of contracting the AIDS virus.