Focus on Corona could hurt HIV/Aids fight, say experts

Friday, May 15th, 2020 00:00 |
World Health Organisation. Photo/Courtesy

Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu

With almost all the healthcare attention now shifted to coronavirus pandemic, there are fears HIV/Aids programmes could suffer a big blow in the next few months.

The virus pandemic has continued to take a heavy toll on healthcare systems across the world for the past four months.

Coast region HIV/Aids coordinator Omar Mwanjama says the future of HIV programmes remains unpredictable with the current situation.

He, however, says no HIV patient is in crisis for now.

“It is true that most focus is now on Covid-19 but for now it is still early. Concerns at the moment are on nutrition in case the pandemic continues and there is a lockdown because HIV patients are part of the vulnerable groups that require good nutrition. If they go without meals, then they will be in deep crisis,” Mwanjama says.

 “However, going forward, it is difficult to predict how the situation will turn out.”

Medics handling HIV/Aids patients have also expressed fears of a possible crisis in the fight against the disease should the Covid-19 pandemic extend beyond October this year, as foreign donors could terminate their support for the programmes in Africa.

“HIV programmes are mainly funded by the United States Government which we know very well has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis… if the crisis continues with this trend, health services in most governments are likely to be overwhelmed,” says Dr Stephen Momanyi, who is in charge of HIV care and treatment at Bomu Hospital, in Mombasa.

“If the US healthcare system gets overwhelmed then they might not see it necessary to continue funding Africa and instead begin focusing on their domestic crisis,” he adds.

Reach patients

He, however, says that currently there is still enough funding that can sustain the HIV programmes until October.

“Ministry of Health has assured us that we have a continuous supply of ARVs that can last up to one year so the supply is good for now,” says Dr Momanyi.

“Before this we had anticipated a lockdown and so we supplied all our patients with drugs to last three months .”

He further says that under the HIV care and treatment, they have come up with innovative ways of reaching out to patients who are far away, adding that they have patients from as far as United States and Britain who still access drugs at their facility.

“Here at Bomu we have patients from US, UK, Tanzania, Uganda and others within the country but as far as Kisumu.

These we communicate with them only regarding their medication and package their drugs and send them via courier services.

Locally, we also have the homecare-based programmes where we have 100 Community Health  Workers who help us reach patients in all the six sub-counties of Mombasa,” says the medic.

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