Emerging infections becoming a threat to HIV/AIDS prevention – US Global AIDS Coordinator

Story by Ebenezer Sarpong Mantey

The U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Dr. John Nkengasong, has bemoaned the threat, emerging infections like COVID-19, Marburg, Ebola, and Monkeypox pose to HIV/AIDS prevention.

According to Dr. John Nkengasong, this development has contributed to the seeming disruptions experienced in service delivery, especially for persons living with the HIV condition in Africa.

With the world having grappled with COVID-19 and other infections in the last 2 years, medical experts and stakeholders expressed concern about new HIV infections and access to care for infected persons.

“We are beginning to see how emerging infections like Ebola, Marburg, Monkeypox, and COVID are threatening the HIV program because they are disruptive.  We stall the HIV program because we’re paying attention fully to those – to eliminate those programs.  We know what happened with COVID, when COVID was at its height it disrupted the TB program, Malaria program, and HIV program and we started to see excess mortality among patients that were receiving ARVs, or HIV-infected patients who subsequently died because of the other infections other than because of HIV.”

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that COVID-19 killed about 260,000 people in Africa in three years, whereas HIV alone killed 425,000 people in one year.

The US Global AIDS Coordinator mentioned that a developed strategy is to elevate a pillar called the Public Health Systems and Security, “which will position assets that are used for HIV/AIDS in a way that when there is a new outbreak, these assets will be quickly mobilized to contain that emerging infection, for caregivers to concentrate on curbing HIV infections.”

Dr. Nkengasong shared all these in a digital briefing on February 28, with selected journalists across Africa, as part of activities to mark the 20th anniversary of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR has invested over $85 billion in curbing HIV/AIDS globally. This investment remains the biggest commitment, that any country, has ever contributed to the fight against a single infection in the world.

The program has also changed the narrative of HIV/AIDS being a death sentence. This is because health systems and human resources have been strengthened, vigorous anti-stigmatization campaigns have been launched, 25 million lives have been saved, and 5.5 million children have been born HIV/AIDS-free because of the roll-out of Antiretroviral Therapy (ARVs) and other initiatives such as the Global Fund and UNAIDS “95-95-95” campaign.

The UNAIDS strategic objective of “Test and Treat”, “Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)”, and “95-95-95 by 2030”, respectively means that by the year 2030, 95 percent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 95 percent of people who know their HIV status will be put on treatment and 95 percent of people living with HIV and are on treatment will have their viral loads suppressed.
Source: || Ebenezer Sarpong Mantey || 2023

Evans Osei-Bonsu

Evans is a radio producer @PureFM (95.7MHz) under the Angel Broadcasting Network (ABN Ghana), writer, student of Law and Politics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

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