PANDEMIC

Time to renew war on Aids, Covid

In Summary
  • A recent study by UNAIDS warned of a possible retrogression in sub-Saharan Africa caused by Covid-19.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the global Aids burden, is reeling from shrinking donor envelope and support.

Kenya will join the rest of the world on December 1 to commemorate World Aids Day. This is a day set aside globally to unite, renew commitment and show support for people living with HIV and Aids as well as remember those who have died from Aids-related illness.

Partners in the HIV sector are expected to unite and renew their commitment under the national theme ‘Komesha HIV & Covid-19’ #Tuwajibike’ to support the government’s efforts towards preventing the spread of HIV and Covid-19.

The national theme was derived from the 2020 World Aids Day Global theme: ‘Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility’. The theme underscores the significance of individuals, countries and the global community uniting in taking responsibility to address HIV and Aids amidst the growing list of challenges derailing ongoing global efforts today, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

This year’s World Aids Day, the 32nd since its inception, will be commemorated under a new unprecedented norm occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is threatening to erode gains made against Aids. A recent study by UNAIDS warned of a possible retrogression in sub-Saharan Africa caused by Covid-19.

It noted that the global Aids response could be set back if Covid-19 disrupts HIV services, a situation that should worry all of us. Like her peers in the region, Kenya is racing against time to attain the ambitious global 90:90:90 targets as it ushers in a defining decade. The global community is determined to end Aids as a public health threat by 2030. 

According to Kenya HIV Estimates 2020, the country has only attained the first 90 and is inching closer to attaining the second and third 90s. The 90:90:90 global targets aim to have, by the end of 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status; of which 90 per cent be on antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent achieve viral load suppression.

The 90:90:90 global targets aim to have, by the end of 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status; of which 90 per cent be on antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent achieve viral load suppression.

The 2020 World Aids Day provides an opportunity for stakeholders and partners to rethink strategies, reimagine systems and devise new innovative ways to combat the two pandemics while ensuring that gains made against HIV are safeguarded. Adoption of strategies used in Kenya’s three decade-long battle against the Aids epidemic to compliment efforts already in place against Covid-19 would be a strategic move.

Community mobilisation, anti-stigma strategies, strong political leadership, multi-sectoral approach and strong primary healthcare offer interesting lessons in the management of HIV, which can be leveraged on in the response against Covid-19.

Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the global Aids burden, is reeling from shrinking donor envelope and support.

The US, by far the biggest funder of HIV programme in Kenya, is the hardest hit by Covid-19 according to WHO figures. Europe, another important partner in the response, is also struggling to cope with the surging Covid-19 numbers.

 

This situation may further complicate the funding matrix as the global economy shrinks.

The effects of the global economic meltdown will be felt for years despite promising Covid-19 vaccine trials, which provide hope that maybe, just maybe, the pandemic will be brought under control soon.

For Kenya and her peers in the region, this should be a wake-up call. It’s time to rethink domestic financing mechanisms to sustain the momentum towards ending HIV and Aids and cushion the country against over-reliance on unpredictable donor funds.

Communication officer, National Aids Control Council