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COVID-19 may trigger over 1m HIV/AIDS deaths in sub-Sahara Africa – WHO

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THE number of deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa could double if the provision of healthcare to HIV sufferers is disrupted during the coronavirus crisis.

The warning was handed down in a release jointly issued today by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS.

According to the statement, a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to more than 500,000 extra deaths in the region in 2020-2021. This will record a sharp increase to an estimated 470,000 people that died of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.

“The terrible prospect of half a million more people in Africa dying of AIDS-related illnesses is like stepping back into history. We must also ensure that global supplies of tests and treatments continue to flow to the countries that need them. There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19.

We cannot sit by and allow hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young, to die needless deaths. We urge governments to ensure that every man, women and child living with HIV get regular supplies of antiretroviral therapy — something that’s literally a life-saver,” the statement said.

Shedding more light on the warning, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus said the knock-on effects would see people continue to die in excess numbers over the following five years, the statement said. In sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, an estimated 25.7 million people were living with HIV, of whom 16.4 million were taking antiretroviral therapy.

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