The Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is of the view that the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) will seriously disrupt response to HIV/AIDS and other viral diseases in Ghana and other African countries.
According to the NGO, attention on HIV/AIDS has now been shifted to COVID-19, hence affecting resources and response programmes meant for HIV/AIDS.
Speaking in an interview with Graphic Online after distributing food and sanitary items to some orphans and adolescents with HIV in Accra and its environs, the Director for International Symposium on AIDS and Associated Cancers in Africa (now International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa), Mr Luc Armand Bodea, said a six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500,000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year (2020–2021), bringing the region back to 2008 AIDS mortality levels.
He explained that “Even a 20% disruption could cause an additional 110 000 deaths,” adding that “The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and limited HIV response and for that matter has increased the plight and burden of people living with HIV.”
Mr Bodea who is also the Coordinator for the SAA said although there was the need to fight COVID-19, it was also important not to lose focus on HIV response programmes.
“The focus and attention of governments have shifted from other diseases including HIV/AIDS to mainly the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, he said, pointing out that a joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more.
The places that the SAA team visited with food and sanitary items included Lekkma Hospital, La Polyclinic, Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital, Tema General Hospital, NAP+ Office and Ogbojo Polyclinic.
The visit to the various places was facilitated by Hephzichildren Foundation; Worldwide International Youth Foundation, Nyame Bekyere Youth Foundation, and NAP+.
The rationale for the exercise, he explained, was to alleviate and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on PLHIV; contribute to the prevention of COVID-19 among PLHIV and to raise awareness of PLHIV on preventive measures on COVID-19.
He said “the emergence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its attributed impact on the vulnerable in our society, such as people living with HIV, adolescent girls, women and the ageing cannot be overlooked,” he stated.
Mr Bodea also urged PLHIV to observe all safety protocols regarding COVID-19 prevention in order not to compound their health problems with that of COVID-19.
He, therefore, commended the government of Ghana, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA Ghana), the Canadian High Commission and other key partners and stakeholders for supporting the initiative.
The Society for AIDS in Africa was founded in 1989 at the fourth International Symposium on AIDS and Associated Cancers in Africa (now ICASA) held in Marseille, France by a group of African scientists, activists and advocates in response to the HIV epidemic.
As part of its mandate, SAA organizes the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), the largest conference on HIV/AIDS and emerging viral diseases in Africa. It is organized every two years.