Africa Battles 2 Pandemics Simultaneously: COVID-19 and HIV

It is widely known that COVID-19 poses a higher threat to immunocompromised people — and Africa, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections, holds especially vulnerable populations, forcing the continent to combat two public health emergencies at once.

Although the African continent’s HIV situation has improved in recent years, with HIV infections falling by 37% between 2000 and 2018, the pandemic has still taken a toll on those living with this widespread autoimmune disease. While the development of antiretroviral technologies have saved 13.6 million lives in the same period, those who have not received treatment still have difficulty passing the virus.

“In someone where immunity is suppressed, then we see virus persisting,” Professor Linda-Gayle Bekker, the head of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, said in an interview with the BBC.

This, coupled with the lack of vaccine access in Africa, makes it especially strenuous to combat these two ongoing illnesses. Currently, just under 10% of the continent is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and only seven countries — Seychelles, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia, Cabo Verde, Botswana and Rwanda — have reached the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40% of each country’s population by December 2021. These lags in vaccination rates — the result of a combination of resource and distribution issues — are being combated by the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing program and increased distribution efforts in 2022, Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said to The World.

Moving forward, Nkengasong says that Africa “should be mindful of what COVID[-19] can do to erode the significant progress that we have made in achieving remarkable progress in controlling HIV/AIDS over the years.”

“We don’t know what the trajectory for COVID[-19] will look like in the coming years, but we know that HIV has been with us for 40 years [and] has killed almost 37 million people,” he said. “Tremendous gains have been made in the fight against HIV, especially in Africa. But we should be mindful of what COVID[-19] can do to erode the significant progress that we have made in achieving remarkable progress in controlling HIV/AIDS over the years.”

More from U.S. News

HIV and the Coronavirus: Pandemic Carries Echoes of Early AIDS Crisis

Coronavirus Cases Surge in South Africa as Study Suggests Omicron May Evade Prior Infection

Self-Attacking Antibodies Persist Post-COVID

Africa Battles 2 Pandemics Simultaneously: COVID-19 and HIV originally appeared on usnews.com

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