Some shifts that countries set in motion within their health systems and economies to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to deprioritize the urgent, ongoing needs of people living with HIV and derail decades of hard-won progress in the response to HIV, TB and other diseases.
A survey of programmes supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 106 countries showed that disruptions to service delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected 85% of HIV programmes.
COVID-19 has highlighted pervasive and long-standing issues influencing exclusion from health services, notably of those most vulnerable to HIV, including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people. These populations have experienced renewed stigma, persecution and economic hardship. In some countries, human rights-related barriers to healthcare access in the name of COVID-19 “emergency” and “disaster” powers and social injustices, stigma and racial inequalities have made the most marginalized more vulnerable to HIV and COVID-19.