Communities first in the global COVID-19 response

Communities first in the global COVID-19 response

Our thoughts are with all the people across the world who are affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. We applaud the health workers who are doing an incredible job in often very difficult circumstances. Aidsfonds is concerned about the impact of the increasing burden the outbreak poses on health and supply systems, especially in countries where these are already fragile. As an AIDS organisation, we are particularly concerned about the impact this may have on the continuation of life-saving prevention and treatment services for the millions of people living with or vulnerable to HIV. When such services get interrupted, HIV might spread further, and drug resistance may increase.

Alarming signals from communities

While there is no full picture yet on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the HIV response, it is certain that our partners providing critical HIV and sexual and reproductive health services to their communities are experiencing increased difficulties to reach the people in need of these services, due to COVID-19 related health and safety measures. This is particularly the case for people who are already experiencing barriers in accessing services and human rights violations due to HIV-related stigma, discrimination and exclusion.

In Ukraine, partners reported that due to fear for the coronavirus, 50% of their service users, mainly people who use drugs, are not showing up for their substitution therapy and antiretroviral (ARV) medication. Our partners in Indonesia raised the alarm about the impact of COVID-19 related flight cancellations on the import of  ARVs into the country, which is currently experiencing a stock out. In Kenya, where shortages of HIV self-test kits were already common, partners report that with the outbreak of the coronavirus there is an even smaller chance these shortages will be addressed, as other pressing health priorities are taking over.  

All-inclusive health systems and coverage prove crucial

All over the world, leaders are now showing strong political will to invest in the health of their populations. This should translate into serious resources allocated to fighting COVID-19, while continuing to combat HIV and other communicable diseases, achieving universal health coverage and ensuring health systems are much better equipped to deal with people’s overall health needs, including when pandemics hit.  

Lessons from the HIV and AIDS response

There are many good lessons to learn from the HIV and AIDS response. We know that directly supporting communities that are the most affected by the epidemic works. When communities have the space, capacity, and resources to mobilise and when they are empowered, great strides can be made in terms of holding governments accountable, removing barriers to disease prevention and treatment, fighting injustice and inequalities, and ensuring the most vulnerable and marginalised groups are included in the overall health response. This investment in communities is even more crucial in a context of quarantines, social distancing measures and lockdowns. As PEPFAR Ambassador Deborah Birx said in her new role as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator: “The HIV advocates and activists stood up when no one was listening and got everyone’s attention. We are asking the same sense of community to come together and stand up against this virus.”

Aidsfonds stands ready to continue to support and empower people living with HIV and affected communities in the Netherlands and across the world in their journey towards greater health and wellbeing and the realisation of their right to health. We are in close dialogue with our partners as the COVID-19 crisis evolves to identify the necessary responses and actions and ensure communities are put first.

More on COVID-19

Keep yourself updated with the latest information about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the World Health Organisation or your local government. uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.