COVID-19 could lead to 500,000 extra AIDS-related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 could lead to 500,000 extra AIDS-related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa

Due to the impact of corona on healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, half a million more people will die from the effects of AIDS in the coming year. This was calculated by scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS. Immediate action is required to continue HIV care.

Read UNAIDS press release 'The cost of inaction: COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause hundreds of thousands of extra deaths from HIV'.

Many people in African countries such as Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe no longer have access to ARVs due to the lockdowns. Clinics fear stock-outs, and there is a danger that due to overload, healthcare institutions will no longer be able to provide HIV care.

"The COVID-19 pandemic must not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV. There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19, but the right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other", says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. 

Setting the clock back twelve years 

The WHO and UNAIDS scientists' mathematical models show that a 6-month interruption will set the clock for AIDS relief back twelve years. Back in 2008, over 950,000 people died from the effects of AIDS in the region. Double as much as in 2018. The effects of such interruption will be visible for years to come. The researchers believe that by 2025, AIDS-related deaths will increase with 40 per cent per year. This is a consequence of an increased rate of children being born HIV positive and a higher prevalence of new infections. The medication prevents HIV transmission, even during pregnancy or birth.  

HIV drug resistance 

When treatment is interrupted, HIV can mutate, which causes the virus to become resistant and prevents the medication from achieving its goal. This risk is especially dangerous in sub-Saharan Africa, where alternative HIV inhibitors are not always available. Food shortages are also a cause for alarm, as, without proper food intake, HIV inhibitors are less effective. 


Prevent a disaster 

Now is the time to take action to prevent this devastating scenario from happening. The success in the AIDS response in recent years must not be undone. We need to empower communities affected by HIV to secure HIV prevention, treatment and care.


More on COVID-19 and HIV

The COVID-19 pandemic is strongly affecting the HIV response. Local and regional partners face increased difficulties to reach their communities in need. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Visit our COVID-19 page to learn how the AIDS response is affected and working in the current circumstances. uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.