Covid-19 endangers AIDS progress, UN warns

By Antonio Broto

Geneva, Jul 6 (efe-epa).- The Covid-19 pandemic could cause half a million extra AIDS deaths if it causes long term disruption to treatment services, the United Nations warned on Monday.

Around 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019, the lowest number in the past decade, according to a UN report.

The coronavirus outbreak could set the response back by 10 years or more if it severely disrupts HIV services, it warned.

Disruption of treatments and more difficult access to antiretrovirals due to lockdown and border closures could cause up to half a million additional deaths annually, according to the annual report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

A six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500,000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year, setting the region back to 2008 mortality levels for the disease.

Possible negative factors from the pandemic include a projected increase of up to 25 percent in the price of HIV antiretrovirals exported from India.

There were 1.7 million new HIV infections last year, a similar number to 2018, with 38 million people living with the virus that causes AIDS, of which more than 25 million live on the African continent.

Of the new cases diagnosed, 730,000 occurred in eastern and southern Africa, 300,000 in the Asia-Pacific region, 240,000 in west and central Africa, and 120,000 in Latin America, where there are around 2.1 million people with HIV.

In southern and eastern Africa, the areas most affected by AIDS, annual HIV infections have dropped 38 percent in the past decade.

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