Africa: WHO Director-General Remarks At the Ias Press Conference

press release

Dear Anton, dear Winnie, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening,

Much like the early years of HIV, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in so many ways.

The world has now recorded more than 11.3 million cases of COVID-19, and 531,000 lives have been lost.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Like HIV, the impact of the virus has been felt politically, economically, culturally and socially.

And WHO is deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the global response to HIV.

A new WHO survey showed access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed as a result of the pandemic.

73 countries have reported that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on treatment access, WHO recommended that all countries prescribe ARVs for longer periods of time - up to six months while shoring up the supply chain for all medicines.

Furthermore, shortages in condoms and drugs used for the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV transmission have led to WHO encouraging countries to do all they can to ensure the safe delivery of prevention, diagnostic and treatment services for all those living with, and affected by, HIV.

These disruptions highlight the need for robust and flexible health systems that are able to cope with outbreaks while also ensuring the delivery of essential health services such as HIV.

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The disruptions in access to life-saving commodities and services come at a critical moment as progress in the global response to HIV stalls.

In 2018 and 2019, the number of new HIV infections stabilized at 1.7 million annually and there was only a modest reduction in AIDS-related deaths.

Despite steady advances in scaling up HIV treatment coverage to more than 25 million people, the "90-90-90" targets set for 2020 will not be reached.

Progress is stalling because HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most.

Improved targeting of proven prevention and testing interventions and services - including PrEP and HIV self-testing - will be critical to reinvigorate the global response to HIV.

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Progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up efforts to tackle comorbidities and opportunistic infections including TB, Hepatitis and new threats like COVID-19.

In 2019, 62% of new HIV infections, globally, were among key populations or their partners.

Men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and prisoners are particularly vulnerable to HIV and frequently lack adequate access to HIV services.

The lack of optimal HIV medicines with suitable pediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV, contributing towards low treatment coverage.

Access to services for vulnerable groups must be expanded through stronger community engagement, improved service delivery and tackling stigma and discrimination

Ultimately, ending the HIV epidemic worldwide can only be achieved through the coordinated action to ensure that the global targets of the Sustainable Development Goals for HIV and universal health coverage are reached.

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While tackling COVID-19 is a global priority we must not turn our backs on the 38 million people living with HIV and the millions more at risk of infection.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts, build national unity and global solidarity to tackle both the COVID-19 pandemic and diseases like HIV.

Thank you, Anton again.

I thank you

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