COVID-19 has had a “devastating impact” on the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, which has experienced an unprecedented decline, the Global Fund to fight against these diseases lamented in its annual report on Wednesday.

For the first time since its creation in 2002, the Fund is reporting backtracking: it is particularly concerned about major cuts in HIV testing and prevention services for vulnerable populations and a sharp decrease in the number of people. tested and treated for tuberculosis.

The 2020 figures “confirm what we feared when COVID-19 emerged,” summed up Peter Sands, managing director of the Fund, quoted in the report. “The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating. For the first time in our history, our main indicators are on the decline ”.

COVID-19 has severely disrupted access to health systems, screening tests and treatment in many countries. The pandemic has had “catastrophic” consequences in the fight against tuberculosis. In 2020, the number of people treated for drug-resistant tuberculosis fell by 19%. In countries where the Global Fund invests, some 4.7 million people with the disease have received treatment, about one million fewer than in 2019.

On the HIV front, COVID is also making a big impact. While the number of HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral therapy continued to increase, by 9% in 2020, the report shows an “alarming” decline in prevention and testing services for key and vulnerable people.

The number of people reached by AIDS prevention programs fell by 11% in 2020, and by 12% in younger populations. The number of treatments given to mothers to prevent their babies from contracting the virus has fallen by 4.5%.

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Global AIDS testing has fallen by 22%, delaying the start of treatment in most countries.

In countries where the Global Fund invests, 21.9 million people were on antiretroviral therapy for HIV in 2020, an increase of 8.8% from 2019.

Malaria programs so far appear to have been less disrupted by COVID-19, the report continues.

In particular, the number of mosquito nets distributed continued to grow, with an increase of 17% in 2020. In fact, in a certain number of countries, volunteers engaged in the fight against the disease have abandoned the distributions in large centers, incompatible with the pandemic, in favor of door to door.

However, the number of screening tests carried out in people suspected of having malaria fell by 4.3% in 2020. And progress to contain the disease has stagnated, deplores the Fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the “critical importance” of health systems around the world, the Fund said.

A few glimmers of hope, however: it has led to a number of innovations that have benefited the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In Nigeria, for example, the national AIDS control agency has conveniently carried out HIV tests among people who travel to medical centers for COVID tests, reports the Fund. Result: the number of positive cases detected increased.

In 2020, the Fund’s rapid response to the pandemic made it possible to avoid the worst, he also welcomes. Last year, it spent $ 4.2 billion to continue the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

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