Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria has called for urgent investments to protect decades of gains made against the spread of deadly diseases in Africa from being eroded by COVID-19 pandemic.
The organisation, in a report, said it had saved 38 million lives since 2002, including six million in 2019, which represented a 20 per cent increase in the number of lives saved when compared to the 2018.
Executive Director of the Fund, Peter Sands, said the report demonstrated how a united world led by strong commitments by communities could work together to drive diseases into retreat.
“We have made extraordinary progress, but COVID-19 now threatens to reverse the gains we have all worked so hard to achieve over the past years. We must not let that happen. We must unite to fight. We can’t surrender the gains we have made against HIV, TB and malaria and allow our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be sharply reversed. Let’s act with speed and scale, investing far greater resources than we have done in the past to counter both the direct impact of COVID-19 and to mitigate the knock-on consequences for HIV, TB and malaria,” Sands said.
Highlights of the report posted on the website of the Fund indicated that overall deaths caused by AIDS, TB and malaria each year reduced by nearly 50 per cent since the peak of the epidemics in countries where Global Fund invested.
The report said in 2019, no fewer than 20.1 million people received anti-retroviral therapy for HIV; 718,000 HIV-positive mothers received medicine to keep them alive and prevent transmitting HIV to their babies; 5.7 million people were tested and treated for TB; 160 million mosquito nets were distributed to protect nearly 320 million people from malaria for three years.
On HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund said that strong progress was made on several fronts in 2019, noting that while girls were still disproportionately affected by HIV compared to their male peers, infection rates among adolescent girls and young women dropped by 51 per cent since 2010 in 13 priority countries in sub-saharan Africa where the Global Fund invests.