COVID-19 pushed back developments in finding vaccine against HIV/Aids: Karim

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Infectious diseases expert, Professor Salim Abdool Karim says the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back progress to combat several other diseases and infections, including developments on finding vaccines against HIV/Aids.

The world observes World Aids Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic under the theme “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.

Karim says medical research to assist people battling HIV/Aids remains mostly stagnant as scientists race to find a vaccine against COVID-19.

“Absolutely true, we have neglected almost everything in life trying to grapple with and come to terms with COVID-19. However when we look at the overall situation at a global level, we seem to be stagnating in terms of our progress on HIV,” says Karim.

“We have had the same number of new infections in the last 2-3 years and that is quite worrying,” says Karim.

World Aids Day:

More than 38 million people globally are still living with HIV among them 18.8 million women and girls. According to a UNAIDS report, young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.

VIDEO: HIV-AIDS in numbers


UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima has said COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains made against HIV.

“Like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed,” she says.


Byanyima says more than 12 million people today are still waiting to get on HIV treatment and some 1.7 million people became infected with HIV last year.

‘Services interruption could see massive deaths’

Last month, the UN agency said COVID-19 could lead to the deaths of half a million HIV-positive people in Sub-Saharan Africa if an interruption to HIV and TB services continue.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Shannon Harder says, “Modelling that WHO and UNAIDS did projects that a six-month interruption of HIV treatment alone in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to massive loss of lives, 500 000 additional deaths this year alone bringing us to 2008 death levels. This could mean losing a decade of progress in just one year.”

She said in the past 10 years they’ve made great progress in reducing the impact of TB on people living with HIV, even though TB remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

“We had about 208 000 deaths among people living with HIV from TB in 2019 – that’s 33% of all AIDS deaths. The good news is this is down from over 570 000 deaths in 2010. TB used to cause nearly half of all AIDS-related deaths – that’s a 63% reduction in deaths from TB since 2010 but even with that, we are not doing enough and properly treat active TB among people living with HIV, with half of HIV/TB cases still being missed this year.”

More studies are expected to take place before the regiment is made available to the public.