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Opinion: Fighting The Twin Epidemic Of HIV And COVID-19 – Securing Food And Nutritional Access

The COVID-19 and existing HIV pandemic are adversely impacting people living with HIV at every level, but more significantly in the areas of food and nutrition

Opinion: Fighting The Twin Epidemic Of HIV And COVID-19 - Securing Food And Nutritional Access

In a world disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the World AIDS Day 20200, observed every year on 1st December, comes at a critical moment for millions of people living with or at risk of HIV. The pandemic has knocked the wind out of literally everything, including the ongoing work that a range of stakeholders have been doing to end AIDS and create an equal life for People Living with HIV (PLHIV).

COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in her message to mark the day.

Also Read: India Needs Stronger Focus On Addressing Mother To Child Transmission Of HIV, Says Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director, UNAIDS

Colliding Epidemics Of HIV And COVID-19

The intersection of the COVID pandemic and the unprecedented containment measures in its wake have had a devastating social and economic impact, especially on the marginalised and vulnerable groups. PLHIV constitute one of the most vulnerable communities globally. Highly discriminated, they are also often left behind due to lack of nutritional, medical, and support services.

The COVID-19 and existing HIV pandemic are adversely impacting PLHIV at every level, but more significantly in the areas of food and nutrition.

Opinion Fighting The Twin Epidemic Of HIV And COVID-19 - Securing Food And Nutritional Access

Anu (name changed), a commercial sex worker and a high-risk group for HIV, has seen her earning disappear due to the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving her at risk of hunger

HIV weakens nutritional standing by undermining the immune system and disrupting nutritional intake or absorption. Malnutrition can exacerbate the effects of HIV and hasten AIDS-related illnesses in PLHIV. Energy requirements of adults living with HIV are 10–30 per cent higher, while children living with HIV need 50–100 per cent more than their counterparts. Several studies have been done for assessing the importance of knowledge, attitude, and practices in Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), but only a handful of them have nutrition as the focus.

Also Read: World AIDS Day 2020: Five Things To Know About HIV Infection

Focusing On Those At Risk

Globally, India has the third-largest population of PLHIV and the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases. This necessitates working with the most-at-risk groups in an even more focused way.

Though far from achieving the ambitious target of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, India has shown significant progress over the last few decades.

Structurally discriminated groups, like the transgender community, are reeling under the dual impact of the pandemic and social distancing. Transgenders in India work as daily-wage earners, who also engage in begging and sex work. Most of them do not have basic identity and entitlement documents, leaving them outside the coverage of government social security schemes like food rations and pension.

According to surveys conducted recently, already low incomes of sex workers have plummeted during the lockdown, forcing them to borrow money, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation. Most of them fear starvation and are seeking alternative livelihoods.

Also Read: World AIDS Day 2020: A Day Of Solidarity To Prevent HIV And Support People Living With It

India’s apex Supreme Court recently directed state governments to provide dry rations to sex workers identified by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and district legal authorities even if they do not have identity documents. In a related move, NACO has introduced flexibility in dispensation of ART drugs for 3–6 months depending of the need.

There is an urgent need to focus on food and nutrition for PLHIV as an integral part of HIV treatment and care package.

WFP India is helping a front-line NGO in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, to identify and provide food assistance to around 20,000 vulnerable households, which include at-risk groups such as transgenders, male and female sex workers. The groups were identified with support of local civil society groups, along with the state AIDS control society.

India’s Public Distribution System, one of the largest food safety nets in the world, is the cornerstone of the country’s food and nutrition security. The at-risk groups and PLHIV need to be comprehensively covered through the targeted components of the food distribution schemes. Targeting and accessibility built at the community levels through the participation of civil society groups and tracking could help increase coverage of these groups across the country.

Also Read: World AIDS Day 2020: A Look At How HIV-AIDS Has Been Impacting The World

Call For Global Solidarity

The theme for the World AIDS Day this year is ‘global solidarity and resilient services’, calling on global leaders and citizens to rally to maintain essential HIV services including food and nutrition during COVID 19 and beyond.

The world has made significant progress since the late 1990s, but HIV remains a major global public health issue. And like many other major health issues, it faces additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care services are all being disrupted particularly in countries with fragile health systems. The breakdown in essential HIV services due to COVID-19 is threatening lives. Any slowing down in the provision of these services will leave many vulnerable populations at greater risk of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths.

Nevertheless, all over the world, health workers and community representatives are doing their utmost to keep services going, adopting innovative ways to overcome disruptions in services caused by COVID-19.

It is important to stay focused on the food and nutrition of vulnerable groups with their livelihoods compromised or destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also Read: World AIDS Day 2020: Odisha’s Sand Artists Call For Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility

Note: The article was originally published on WFP India’s website and reproduced here with permission 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. 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 highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. 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 become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 23,96,06,768 and 48,82,051 have died; 20,13,42,617 are active cases and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 4:15 am.


3,40,37,592 16,862Cases
3,33,82,100 19,391Recovered
4,51,814 379Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,37,592 confirmed cases including 4,51,814 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,03,678 and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,86,280 2,384

33,157 6

64,13,418 2,343

1,39,705 35


48,29,944 9,246

96,421 1,802

47,06,856 10,952

26,667 96


29,82,399 310

9,607 43

29,34,870 347

37,922 6

Tamil Nadu

26,83,396 1,259

15,451 199

26,32,092 1,438

35,853 20

Andhra Pradesh

20,59,122 540

6,588 27

20,38,248 557

14,286 10

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,008 12

135 4

16,86,976 16


West Bengal

15,79,012 530

7,576 81

15,52,491 601

18,945 10


14,39,311 28

337 1

14,13,885 29



10,33,809 521

4,890 38

10,20,645 477

8,274 6


10,05,614 16

203 4

9,91,841 20



9,54,382 8

42 6

9,45,386 2



8,26,244 34

215 20

8,15,943 14


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,669 12

111 1

7,82,035 11



7,71,035 16

105 158


10,049 174


7,26,016 8

42 6

7,16,313 2



6,68,618 168

4,171 40

6,60,512 207

3,935 1


6,05,847 207

3,646 157

5,96,263 362

5,938 2


6,01,971 33

234 11

5,85,199 16

16,538 6


3,48,406 11

130 4

3,43,141 7



3,43,729 28

175 22

3,36,157 6


Jammu And Kashmir

3,30,834 93

935 11

3,25,473 104


Himachal Pradesh

2,21,113 182

1,387 5

2,16,011 173

3,715 4


1,77,356 68

679 27

1,73,342 39

3,335 2


1,27,259 49

647 4

1,24,763 53



1,22,432 69

1,444 15

1,19,099 84



1,10,719 901

13,601 435

96,744 1,332

374 4


84,295 4

110 8

83,369 12



82,734 87

892 31

80,411 115

1,431 3


65,295 10

32 5

64,443 15


Arunachal Pradesh

54,958 4

202 22

54,476 26



31,722 6

224 1

31,108 7



31,516 9

230 8

30,613 17



20,867 6

44 2

20,615 4


Dadra And Nagar Haveli


3 1

10,668 1




2 0



Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,640 3

10 1

7,501 2


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