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UNAIDS boss warns against making HIV mistakes in COVID-19 treatment

UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Winnie Byanyima has called for equitable access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccine when it becomes available warning that the world cannot make the same mistakes it made in the fight against HIV.

She said millions of people in developing countries died while waiting for treatment which was already available in Europe. The same she said could happen with COVID-19 since there are no concrete plans for equitable coverage of the vaccine even as there are currently several promising vaccine candidates.

In her World AIDS day message, Byanyima said even today, more than 12 million people are still waiting to get on HIV treatment and 1.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2019 because they could not access essential services.

The theme for this year’s World AIDS day has been ‘Global solidarity, shared responsibility’ and in line with the theme, the global AIDS body urges countries to involve the people as much as possible in their care if they are to meet the target of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Byanyima says the world had gone off this track before COVID-19 and the pandemic made the situation worse with predictions showing the world might lose an additional over 140,000 people to HIV in the next two years due to challenges caused by the viral disease.

Already, many countries in Africa were failing to achieve the earlier set 90 90 90 targets by UNAIDS for countries to have 90% of their population knowing their HIV status by 2020, 90% of the positive cases to be on treatment and 90% of those on treatment to be suppressed. Only two countries of Botswana and Eswatini have achieved those targets.

In Uganda, State Minister for Primary Healthcare, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu said today that the country has managed to make some strides into achieving the last two 90s of treatment and viral suppression.

She says currently, 1.2 million of the 1.4 million Ugandans living with HIV are on treatment accounting for 89% coverage. This rises from 86% in the year 2018/19.  When it comes to retention on treatment, she says coverage increased from 76 percent to 78 percent.

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