Says Nigeria, others took advantage of opportunities in the Pandemic
Despite the resultant setbacks, Covid-19 has spurred innovation in the fight against Tuberculosis, HIV and Malaria, Global Fund’s Executive Director, Peter Sands said.
The Global Funds in its latest annual found that Covid-19 has overpowered health systems in many countries, causing resources to be diverted from fighting HIV, TB, and malaria to dealing with the pandemic. But it also pointed out that countries such as Nigeria braced up to the challenge by taking advantage of the opportunity of people going to health clinics for Covid-19 tests to test them for HIV as well, just as community health workers and volunteers in many countries are changing from central distributions of mosquito nets to delivering them door to door for malaria control.
Sands said, “The fight against Covid-19 should be a catalyst to finish the unfinished fights against HIV, TB and malaria,” adding, “If we can continue to innovate and collaborate at global, national and local levels, we can end HIV, TB and malaria, beat Covid-19 and build a much stronger foundation for pandemic preparedness and response.”
Quartz reported that Yacine Djibo, founder and executive director of Speak Up Africa, a Dakar-based policy and advocacy organization for issues such as malaria and neglected tropical diseases sees the Global Fund’s findings as a need to step up investment and collaboration to ensure that essential services and operations continue to protect the lives of people affected by malaria, HIV and TB, and other diseases.
“As we continue to fight the virus, we must redouble our efforts to finish the fight against deadly diseases like malaria so that no one is left behind and especially the most at-risk,” she was quoted by Quartz.
TB, HIV and Malaria are common in Africa, killing hundreds of thousands in the region every year, with the continent having the highest number of cases of HIV and malaria globally and the second-highest for TB.
The report reveals the catastrophic impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the fight against TB worldwide. It found that, in 2020, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in the countries where the Global Fund invests dropped by a staggering 19%, with those on treatment for extensively drug-resistant TB registering an even bigger drop of 37%. The number of HIV-positive TB patients on antiretroviral treatment as well as TB treatment dropped by 16%.
Interventions to combat malaria appear to have been less badly affected by COVID-19 than the other two diseases. Thanks to adaptation measures and the diligence and innovation of community health workers, prevention activities remained stable or increased compared to 2019. The number of mosquito nets distributed increased by 17%, structures covered by indoor residual spraying increased by 3%. In 2020, 11.5 million pregnant women received preventive therapy. However, suspected cases of malaria tested fell by 4.3% and progress against the disease stalled.