COVID-19 took its toll on AIDS fight, UNAIDS chief says – Community News

COVID-19 took its toll on AIDS fight, UNAIDS chief says

CHICAGO, Dec. 1 (Reuters) – New infections and deaths from HIV/AIDS may increase as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted prevention measures, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in an interview broadcast on Reuters Next Wednesday. conference.

Byanyima, who is also United Nations Undersecretary General, said that especially during the first phase of the pandemic, fewer people chose to get tested and some stopped treatment because of long lines at clinics or other public security measures that restrict access to prevention measures. .

“We do expect to see more deaths in the coming years, possibly more new infections from these disruptions,” she said in the pre-recorded interview that aired on World AIDS Day.

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Byanyima said vaccine nationalism, in which rich countries buy up vaccine stocks and make poor countries wait, is “one of the saddest parts of where we are.”

Because rich countries have hoarded vaccines, just over 7% of the African population has been fully vaccinated, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project.

Some scientists believe this may have been a factor in the development of Omicron, the new variant first discovered in southern Africa that has raised alarms about the possibility that vaccines may not be effective against it.

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima poses for a portrait after an interview in New York, NY, US, Feb. 11, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

“It’s no coincidence for most of us that it originated in Sub-Saharan Africa, where you have a lot of underdiagnosed HIV infections, or people who are immunocompromised,” said John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill. Cornell Medical College in New York, in a separate interview.

Moore said people who are immunocompromised cannot clear the infection as quickly as people with healthy immune systems, and that a sub-optimal immune response can cause the virus to continue to mutate.

“That’s how the other variants came about — in immunocompromised people,” he said.

Byanyima said research shows that people with HIV are no more likely than others to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but that once infected, they are at much higher risk of serious illness .

“That’s why this is critical for developing countries with a high HIV burden,” she said of access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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Report by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.