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COVID-19 Took Toll On AIDS Fight, UNAIDS Chief Says

UNAIDS Chief said that during the first pandemic, fewer people opted to be tested and some dropped out of treatment because of long lines at clinics

COVID-19 Took Toll On AIDS Fight, UNAIDS Chief Says
According to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, there may be an increase in HIV infections in the coming years because of the disruptions in services caused by Covid
Highlights
  • People with HIV more vulnerable to Covid: UNAIDS Chief
  • A suboptimal immune response can allow the virus to keep mutating: Experts
  • In the coming years, we might see more deaths due to AIDS: UNAIDS Chief

Chicago: New infections and deaths from HIV/AIDS may increase as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted prevention measures, said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in an interview airing on Wednesday (December 1) at the Reuters Next conference. Ms Byanyima, who is also United Nations under-secretary-general, said that during the first pandemic phase in particular, fewer people opted to be tested and some dropped out of treatment because of long lines at clinics or other public safety measures that impeded access to prevention measures.

Also Read: Social Inequality, AIDS, And Pandemics Are Interrelated: Union Health Secretary

We do expect that in the coming years, we might see more deaths, we might see more new infections as a result of these disruptions, she said in the pre-recorded interview that aired on World AIDS Day.

Ms Byanyima said vaccine nationalism, in which rich countries buy up vaccine supplies and poor nations are left waiting, has been “among the saddest part of where we are.”

As rich countries have hoarded vaccines, just over 7 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Some scientists believe that might have been a factor in the development of Omicron, the new variant first discovered in southern Africa that has prompted alarm over chances that vaccines might not be effective against it.

It is no coincidence to most of us that it arose in Sub Saharan Africa, where you have a lot of under-diagnosed HIV infections, or people who are immunocompromised with it,”said John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, in a separate interview.

Mr Moore said people who are immunocompromised cannot clear the infection as quickly as those with healthy immune systems, and that a suboptimal immune response can allow the virus to keep mutating.

That’s how the other variants are thought to have arisen – in immunocompromised people, he said.

Ms Byanyima said research shows that people with HIV are no more likely than others to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but that once infected, they are at much higher risk of severe illness.

That is why for developing countries with a high burden of HIV, this is critical, she said of the access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Also Read: Inclusion Is Key To End Inequalities In Fighting HIV, Says Transgender Activist Shreegauri Sawant

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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