Nigeria and 72 countries are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact globally.
According to a new survey conducted by the world Health Organisation (WHO) ahead of the International AIDS Society’s biannual conference, 24 countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines.
The survey, the global health body said, followed a modeling exercise convened by the organisation and UNAIDS in May which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.
Director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gumbo Aliyu, had told the paper that the lockdown in India had affected shipment of commodities, including drugs.
The implication, according to him, was that Nigeria now has to share chartered flight with other countries.
“Ordinarily, we have a flight that brings medication to this country but, we have to get our shipment and another country‘s shipment, and that brings about delay. Because of that, the company that produces Calista for HIV is now unable to give use adequate amount as they are also producing for COVID 19, and there is global demand“, he had said.
Confirming this yesterday, WHO noted that failure of suppliers to deliver ARVs on time and shutdown of land and air transport services, coupled with limited access to health services within countries as a result of the pandemic, were among the causes cited for the disruptions in the survey.
WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “The findings of this survey are deeply concerning. Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.“
According to data released yesterday from UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39% between 2000 and 2019.
HIV-related deaths fell by 51% over the same period, and some 15 million lives were saved through the use of antiretroviral therapy.
Despite steady advances in scaling up treatment coverage, with more than 25 million people in need of ARVs receiving them in 2019, the global health body is disturbed that key 2020 global targets will be missed.
WHO said that it recently developed guidance for countries on how to safely maintain access to essential health services during the COVID 19 pandemic, including for all people living with or affected by HIV.
“The guidance encourages countries to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment through “multi-month dispensing,” a policy whereby medicines are prescribed for longer periods of time – up to six months. To date, 129 countries have adopted this policy.
“Countries are also mitigating the impact of the disruptions by working to maintain flights and supply chains, engaging communities in the delivery of HIV medicines, and working with manufacturers to overcome logistics challenges.“
On new opportunities to treat HIV in young children, WHO said at the IAS conference, it will highlight how global progress in reducing HIV-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up support and services for populations disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including young children.
“Through a collaboration of multiple partners, we are likely to see generic versions of dolutegravir for children by early 2021, allowing for a rapid reduction in the cost of this medicine,” s the director of the Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes at WHO, Dr Meg Doherty, stated.
“This will give us another new tool to reach children living with HIV and keep them alive and healthy, she added.
COVID-19 Airborne, Scientists Insist
Over 200 scientists across 32 countries have outlined evidence that coronavirus can linger in smaller particles in the air and infect people indoors.
The researchers called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to revise its recommendation on use of facemask when indoor.
According to the New York Times, people may need to put on facemasks indoors, even when social distance is practiced.
It would also mean that ventilation systems in offices and residence would need to add new filters to their air conditioning
It is also suggested that ultraviolet light would be deployed to kill tiny, infected particles.
Meanwhile, the WHO has said that the coronavirus spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks.
The global health body said the evidence for the virus being airborne was not convincing, according to the New York Times.
Growing Cases Among VIPs Unsettles FG
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday expressed worry over the increasing positive cases of OVID-19, especially among top government officials.
Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who spoke the briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja said this has a direct impact on governance and security of the nation.
“We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging,” he said
Mustapha who is also chairman of the PTF warned Nigerians against a repeat of the post relaxation of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.
According to him, the easing of some restrictions should not be misinterpreted to mean that the war against COVID-19 is over.
He said “Let me emphasise that decision for further relaxation was cautiously taken by government to balance lives and livelihood. Rising global and domestic statistics of cases and fatalities have shown that COVID-19 has not given any relaxation.
“Therefore, we cannot afford to slow down and we must never compromise. Let us continue to learn from history of pandemics by avoiding the mistakes of 1918”.
Having laid that foundation, the PTF called on all Nigerians to also remain vigilant, saying the call is underscored by global and national developments in the last one week, especially throughout the week-end.
The SGF lamented that the rising cases of infections among governors has a direct impact on governance and security of the nation.
“Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitization messaging,” he added.
Mustapha also disclosed that the PTF met with the heads of security and defence agencies to review and chart a refined course in view of the fact that COVID-19 is a global health, socio-economic and security issue and Nigeria must continue to evolve new strategies peculiar to her environment , even while working within global prescriptions.
According to him, on Thursday and Friday, the PTF will be carrying out its mid-term review having crossed the three months half time threshold of its life span.
This, he said, will involve a comprehensive examination of the steps taken, the challenges and charting the way forward.
He also re-emphasised that COVID-19 was not a death sentence, but it becomes dangerous when there is failure to detect, test, isolate and treat.
He continued:“We can avoid contracting it by complying with non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing a face mask, maintaining social distancing, hand-washing, staying and working from home if practicable. Similarly, we can achieve more if we STOP STIGMATISATION.
“I, therefore encourage all Nigerians to get tested to enable us fight this pandemic. We have done it before and we shall do it again. The handling of the EBOLA virus, Lassa Fever, our becoming a polio-free country and successful exit from other communicable diseases over the years should give us comfort that COVID-19 would also be put behind us”.