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Facing colliding epidemics of HIV, TB, COVID-19

BroadReach Group health experts want vaccinations sites to be multipurpose on a variety of illnesses

| THE INDEPENDENT | As Africa works to get back on track to meet its UNAIDS HIV prevention and care targets, healthcare organisations like the BroadReach Group are partnering with governments and donors to find creative solutions for the colliding epidemics of HIV, TB and COVID-19 – a “triple threat” that has had a significant impact on HIV programmes reaching their targets in 2021.

BroadReach Group is a social impact health organisation which has been involved in the care of nearly 10% of the global HIV+ populations’ over the past four year. It combines technology with deep health expertise to help tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges.

The Vantage platform, created by Vantage Health Technologies as part of the BroadReach Group, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics to provide health leaders and workers with personalised data insights and step-by-step next best actions to guide impact at scale. The combination AI and human action makes true health equity.

BroadReach has been at the forefront of developing innovative approaches to improve the outcome of people living with HIV and TB in South Africa, for more than 13 years.

It is currently working within the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States Agency For International Development (USAID), Global Fund and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded programmes, other healthcare organisations and local governments in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa.

PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history, enabled by strong bipartisan support across nine U.S. congresses and three presidential administrations, and through the American people’s generosity.

Since PEPFAR’s inception in 2003, the U.S. government has invested over $85 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response, saving over 20 million lives, preventing millions of HIV infections, and achieving HIV/AIDS epidemic control in more than 50 countries around the world.

BroadReach’s work with PEPFAR aims to get African countries back on track to meet the UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV targets in the next year, and reaching their revised 95-95-95 HIV treatment targets by 2025. The 90-90-90 and 95-95-95 HIV treatment targets refer to those with HIV knowing their status, receiving their antiretroviral (ARV) treatments and, if they are on ARVs, achieving viral suppression.

In many parts of Africa, the gains of the past few years were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, as both HIV testing and new patients starting on ARVs. One of the greatest setbacks in the fight against both HIV/AIDS and TB in the COVID-era – and the reason why the 90-90-90 gains were lost in many places – is that the COVID pandemic caused the public to stay away from clinics and hospitals.

A recent National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) study by a group of South African researchers found that there was a marked reduction in primary healthcare utilisation in the country during the pandemic, especially in HIV testing and health visits by children under 5 years of age, irrespective of COVID-19 levels, across almost all districts in the country.

The NIDS CRAM study also found that preventive services such as immunisation and contraception dipped across 75% of health districts countrywide and 23% of the uninsured segment of the population reported that they did not seek acute care when they needed it and also missed out on medication, contraceptives or condoms that should have protected them.  Similar problems are being addressed in other parts of Africa.

Dr. Andrew Kambugu, the Sande-McKinnell Executive Director at Uganda’s Infectious Disease Institute, says the the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for Uganda, as in many other country in Sub-Saharan Africa – also in terms of other communicable and non-communicable diseases.

“This is why it is so important to work smarter together to face the emerging challenges,” he says, “We believe our collaboration with the PEPFAR, the CDC and implementing partners like BroadReach is vital to turn the situation around. Ending HIV, TB and COVID-19 requires smart strategic partnerships.”

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