HIV Drugs Running Out In Over 70 Countries Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that more than 70 countries are now at risk of shortage of HIV medication because of the spread of COVID-19. The agency described the issue as “deeply concerning” because it could affect millions of people around the world.

A new WHO survey showed closure of land and air transportation, reduced operations of suppliers and limited access to health services disrupted the delivery of antiretroviral medicine (ARVs). Twenty-four countries already reported “critically low” stock of the HIV medications, CNBC reported Monday.

“The findings of this survey are deeply concerning,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “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.”

The agency and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS reported in May that limited access to antiretroviral medication could double AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020.

WHO also expects to miss its target population to get HIV drugs this year. More than 25 million people needed antiretroviral medications in 2019 to control the virus and prevent transmission.

The WHO survey adds to the growing list of the impacts of COVID-19. The disease already affected more than 11.6 million worldwide and killed over 538,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Experts warned that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to bring challenges in the next half of the year. Many parts of the U.S. and other countries remain under some form of lockdowns that limit access to health care, restrict business operations and contribute to growing unemployment. 

Doctors in the U.S. have also been reporting a growing number of patients failing to get necessary therapies or care because they avoid hospitals due to the threat of coronavirus. Delayed or missed care could increase their risk of complications associated with their existing health conditions.

For example, Stop TB Partnership reported in May that lockdown measures prompted by the coronavirus could make millions of people around the world more likely to develop tuberculosis (TB). The study estimated that TB will affect 6.3 million people and kill 1.4 million between 2020 and 2025.

HIV A wheelchair for HIV patients is placed in the counselling room at the HIV integrated care unit of Cipto Mangunkusumo government hospital in Jakarta on November 30, 2012 as Indonesia battles HIV/AIDS. Study predicts that the U.S. could cut HIV infections by nearly 70 percent in 2030 with the current prevention, care and treatment goals. Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

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