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COVID-19 Threatens to Destroy Progress in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

July 6, 2020

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was making extraordinary gains in the AIDS fight. Thanks in part to the work of the Global Fund (the organization that receives (RED) dollars), access to life-saving HIV treatment and services was increasing and new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths were decreasing. We were inching closer and closer to ending AIDS once and for all.

However, today, in the midst of COVID-19, the Global Fund’s progress against HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria is in danger of being reversed. In 2020, we will likely see increases in deaths and new infections across all three diseases for the first time in many years, as already weakened health systems are overwhelmed, treatment and prevention programs are disrupted, and resources are diverted.

Some Global Fund-supported HIV education classes have been moved outside with distancing to ensure that lifesaving programs can continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo Credit: Jonx Pillemer

New reports from the Global Fund show that if health systems collapse or treatment and prevention services are interrupted, the death toll from HIV, TB, malaria, and other diseases will be far higher than the deaths from COVID-19 itself. This means MILLIONS more lives lost. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, AIDS-related deaths could more than double in the next 12 months, threatening a whole decade of progress.

So, what will it take to defeat COVID-19, protect progress against HIV, TB, and malaria, and save lives? In short, we need to keep up the heat, awareness and funding to organizations like the Global Fund, which has taken a swift approach to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on their lifesaving programs. To date, the Global Fund has committed $1 billion in existing funds to support countries as they respond to the pandemic, adapt programs and services and reinforce overstretched health systems. However, this funding is only a start. In the next year, the Global Fund will need to mobilize an additional $5 billion to sustain these efforts and save millions of lives from the impact of this outbreak.

Whether it’s COVID-19 or AIDS, we can’t fight a pandemic unless we band together. It’s time to fight harder than ever before to strengthen global health systems and protect the incredible progress we’ve made in the AIDS fight.

“We must demonstrate this is all one and the same fight, that the battle against infectious disease is not a singular battle against one particular virus, but a commitment to make the world safer for everyone.” —Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund