Global Fund launches search for Inspector General

10 August 2020

GENEVA – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has launched a search for its next Inspector General.

A seven-member nomination committee will help the Board of the Global Fund select the next Inspector General. The Board welcomes all candidates with proven skills in leadership and strategic oversight, and from broad and diverse backgrounds.

Board Chair Donald Kaberuka said an independent, well-resourced and transparent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is more essential than ever for the success of the Global Fund as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Global Fund is committed to the highest standards of accountability,” Kaberuka said. “As we help countries defeat COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on HIV, TB and malaria, it is essential to maintain the confidence of our donors and partners and the trust of the communities. Years of hard-won gains could be erased, and millions of lives among the most vulnerable communities are at risk.”

The OIG is an independent yet integral part of the Global Fund. Through audits, investigations and consultancy work, the OIG provides the Global Fund with independent and objective assurance over the design and effectiveness of controls in place to manage the key risks impacting the Global Fund’s programs and operations. The OIG reports on all its activities in the interest of transparency and accountability. The results of its audits and investigations are published on the Global Fund website.

Current Inspector General Mouhamadou Diagne informed the Board earlier this year that he was stepping down to take the position of vice-president of integrity for the World Bank Group.

During his more than five years as Inspector General, Diagne has led a 50-member team of audit and investigation professionals with expertise in risk management, internal controls and governance. The OIG implements a strategic and proactive approach to preventing fraud and misuse of funds, as recommended by the Board and its Audit and Finance Committee.

The Global Fund, the largest multilateral investor in grants for health systems, has saved more than 32 million lives and helped cut HIV, TB and malaria deaths by roughly half, disbursing US$45 billion to more than 100 countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the extraordinary gains made by the Global Fund in the fight against the three diseases.

The Global Fund has reacted decisively to the emergence of COVID-19, quickly making available up to US$1 billion to support countries as they respond to the pandemic, adapt their HIV, TB and malaria programs, and reinforce their already overstretched health systems.

The nomination committee, with the support of an executive search firm, expects to interview the strongest candidates and to recommend a final candidate to the Board for appointment by November 2020. The Global Fund is working with the firm Egon Zehnder to assist with the search for an Inspector General. For more information on the position, qualifications, and requirements go to https://appointments.egonzehnder.com.

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Le Fonds Mondial se met en quête d’un Inspecteur général

10 août 2020

GENÈVE – Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le sida, la tuberculose et le paludisme s’est mis en quête de son prochain Inspecteur général.

Un comité de nomination composé de sept membres aidera le Conseil d’administration du Fonds mondial à sélectionner le prochain Inspecteur général. Tous les candidats possédant des compétences avérées en leadership et en suivi stratégique sont invités à se manifester, quel que soit l’horizon dont ils sont issus.

Selon le président du Conseil d’administration Donald Kaberuka, le Fonds mondial a plus que jamais besoin d’un Bureau de l’Inspecteur général qui soit indépendant, transparent et doté de ressources suffisantes pour mener à bien sa mission, au moment où le monde entier riposte à la pandémie de COVID-19.

« Le Fonds mondial s’engage à respecter les normes de responsabilité les plus strictes », déclare M. Kaberuka. « Au moment où nous aidons les pays à lutter contre le COVID-19 et à en atténuer les effets sur le VIH, la tuberculose et le paludisme, il est impératif de préserver la confiance de nos donateurs, de nos partenaires et des communautés. Des années d’avancées obtenues de haute lutte pourraient être anéanties et des millions de vies au sein des communautés les plus vulnérables sont exposées au risque. »

Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général est une entité indépendante du Fonds mondial, mais qui en fait néanmoins partie intégrante. Au travers d’audits, d’enquêtes et d’activités de consultance, il fournit au Fonds mondial une assurance indépendante et objective sur la conception et l’efficacité des contrôles mis en place afin de gérer les principaux risques qui menacent les programmes et les activités du Fonds mondial. Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général rend compte de toutes ses activités dans un souci de transparence et de responsabilité. Les résultats de ses audits et enquêtes sont publiés sur le site web du Fonds mondial.

En début d’année, l’actuel Inspecteur général Mouhamadou Diagne a informé le Conseil d’administration qu’il allait quitter ses fonctions afin de prendre la vice-présidence Intégrité du Groupe de la Banque mondiale.

Pendant plus de cinq années à la tête du Bureau de l’Inspecteur général, M. Diagne a dirigé une équipe de 50 auditeurs et enquêteurs, spécialistes de la gestion des risques, des contrôles internes et de la gouvernance. Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général adopte une démarche stratégique et volontariste en matière de prévention des fraudes et des détournements de fonds, conformément aux recommandations du Conseil d’administration et de son Comité d’audit et des finances.

Premier investisseur multilatéral en faveur des systèmes de santé au travers de subventions, le Fonds mondial a sauvé plus de 32 millions de vies et contribué à réduire de près de moitié les décès dus au VIH, à la tuberculose et au paludisme, décaissant 45 milliards de dollars US à plus de cent pays. Cependant, la pandémie de COVID-19 menace d’inverser les progrès extraordinaires enregistrés par le Fonds mondial face aux trois maladies.

Le Fonds mondial a fermement réagi à l’émergence du COVID-19 et a rapidement mis à disposition un milliard de dollars US afin d’aider les pays à lutter contre la pandémie, adapter leurs programmes de riposte au VIH, à la tuberculose et au paludisme, et renforcer leurs systèmes de santé déjà débordés.

Avec le concours d’une agence de recrutement de cadres, le Comité de nomination s’entretiendra avec les meilleurs candidats et espère recommander un nom au Conseil d’administration au plus tard en novembre 2020. À ces fins, il a fait appel à l’agence Egon Zehnder. Pour de plus amples informations sur le poste, les qualifications et les compétences requises, rendez-vous sur https://appointments.egonzehnder.com.

UNDP provides nutritional support to HIV+, gay community due to COVID-19 measures

Image: Mr Jairo Valverde, UNDP’s Resident Representative, hands over food items to Dr Rhonda Moore, Director of the NAPS and Mr Joel Simpson, Manager Director of SASOD

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday said it has provided $5.6 million worth of food items to make available nutritional support to Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender plus (LGBT+) community in Guyana.

“PLHIV and LGBT+ persons are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in any society. At the time of COVID-19 and its mandatory containment measures, the challenges facing these groups are further exacerbated. Given their overrepresentation in the informal labour market, they are faced with increased food insecurity and livelihood challenges,” the UNDP said in a statement.

The National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) and Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) are partnering with UNDP to ensure that much-needed relief is delivered to individuals and households from key population groups in Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The NAPS will also pair the delivery of food items with the distribution of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) to PLHIV to ensure that persons are still accessing and following their treatment while at the same time boosting and maintaining or supporting a strong immune system.

While receiving the food items, Director of the NAPS, Dr. Rhonda Moore, noted that UNDP’s support is part of a wider initiative to address food insecurity for members of the PLHIV key populations. In expressing appreciation, she noted that NAPS is partnering with several Civil Society Organizations to reach persons across Guyana and UNDP’s support will specifically target families as against individuals, especially where key population members are expected to contribute to their households.

Managing Director of SASOD, Mr Joel Simpson, noted that UNDP was one of the first international partners to respond to the needs of the LGBT+ community by supporting a socio-economic needs assessment of the LGBT+ population. The findings from that study were shared with key partners and would help to support fundraising efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19.

Resident Representative, Mr Jairo Valverde, noted that UNDP is very happy to support vulnerable groups, who are affected disproportionately, as this is key to the United Nations mandate of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first.

Guyanese author launches COVID-19 children’s book

Guyanese author Ashley Anthony has launched a new children’s book on COVID-19 titled “Lia and Ellie talk about Coronavirus”.

Ashley is currently a sophomore student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, studying Biomedical Engineering and the History of Science, Public Health and Medicine.

The book was launched at the recently held PANCAP Youth Town Hall Meeting July 2020 and is available for free download on PANCAP.org.

Discussing her inspiration for writing the book with the Editor of the PANCAP Newsletter, she stated “I wrote this book as a final project for one of my classes last semester.  COVID-19 has been difficult on all of us, but it can be particularly challenging for children, especially if they don’t understand what’s happening. Having a discussion about COVID-19 can be difficult, but it is my hope that this book makes those conversations a little easier”.

Ashley is an avid writer with numerous published blogs and articles, most notably she wrote a weekly column in the Guyana Times on issues related to Global Warming, Adolescent Health and Rights, LGBT rights and the importance of valuing the contributions of youth.  She has also published a Science-Fiction book, “Mysterious Association and the VirtuGems”.

In addition, Ashley is a guest writer for the Yale Daily News and President of the Yale Boola Magazine.

Click here to read “Lia and Ellie talk about Coronavirus” on PANCAP.org.

Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition is the recipient of the Robert Carr Research Award

To be named as one of the 2020 winners of the prestigious Robert Carr Research Award is an incredible recognition of the work of the team at Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

It demonstrates the critical role communities, and key populations can play in policy and research. It also validates the importance of collaboration between community groups and Academia. Such partnerships can only help to better serve the groups most affected by HIV and advance the regional HIV response.

The award is even more significant, given that it honours one of CVC’s founders, whose vision was for national programmes to have the relevant data to better understand the needs of our communities and design meaningful and targeted interventions.

The research, for which the award was presented will certainly provide important baseline data against which the success of any future interventions can be adequately measured.

Continue reading “Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition is the recipient of the Robert Carr Research Award”

CRN+ implementing strategies to support People Living with HIV during COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to affect the Region, the Caribbean Regional Network of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS (CRN+) has collaborated with the UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office and PANCAP to address the challenges and advocate for People Living with HIV (PLHIV).

COVID-19 has severely affected CRN+, its country networks and partners. The organisation is particularly concerned about the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the Region and delayed projects intended to provide critical services for PLHIV. The delays have also affected proposed collaborations with National AIDS Programmes to address PLHIV at country-level.

Regular access to essential care and treatment for PLHIV has been challenged as health facilities have answered the call to respond to COVID-19.  Establishment and maintenance of alternative models for delivery of healthcare and medication for PLHIV must continue.

CRN+ has developed advocacy, communication and capacity building strategies to ensure the network of PLHIV organisations in the Region have the information and technical support needed to protect the health, wellbeing and rights of PLHIV at country-level.  CRN+ is receiving technical support from the UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office and PANCAP for this initiative.

With the development and implementation of these strategies, CRN+ intends to strengthen access for PLHIV to healthcare and human rights advocacy. The organisation will also seek to address alternative models for delivery of healthcare and medication by utilising a strategy titled – “How do we continue to work from a distance”.

The strategy would include social media messages and other approaches to reach PLHIV communities with limited or no Internet access through traditional means of communication such as newspapers, TV and radio.

There will be a particular focus on women and girls, which will encompass collaboration with the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) Caribbean.  The approach will involve the provision of technical support for Women Living with HIV, adolescent girls and young women; work has commenced with the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana ICW Groups.

CRN+ will continue to advocate for alternative models for healthcare and access to medication including appointment spacing, multi-month medication filling, courier delivery or uplifting medication at HIV Network or CSOs.

Editor’s note: The Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (CRN+) is the regional umbrella organisation with a mandate of advocating for and on behalf of PLHIV. As a full and equal partner in the collaborative fight against HIV and AIDS, CRN+ is driven by PLHIV, making a meaningful difference to their lives. For more information visit www.crnplus.com

UNAIDS report on the AIDS epidemic shows that 2020 targets will not be met in the Caribbean

KINGSTON, 10 July 2020—A new report by UNAIDS shows that despite individual country successes, overall progress in the Caribbean to expand access to HIV services has slowed. Because of this, HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached. The report, Seizing the moment, urges countries to act with greater resolve to reach those still left behind.

Caribbean 2019 data

There were an estimated 330,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the region at the end of 2019. Overall Caribbean adult HIV prevalence was 1.1%.

In 2019 77% of PLHIV in the Caribbean knew their status. This compares to the worldwide average of 81%. Eighty-one percent (81%) of diagnosed Caribbean people were on treatment last year. Eighty percent (80%) of those on antiretroviral therapy were virally suppressed. The global average was significantly higher at 88%.

Some countries have achieved elements of the 90–90–90 targets (90% of PLHIV aware of their HIV status, 90% of diagnosed people on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed). Barbados has reached the target for testing while Guyana has exceeded it with 94% of PLHIV diagnosed. Haiti has gotten 98% of diagnosed people on treatment. Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have achieved viral suppression among at least 90% of PLHIV who are on treatment.

“This shows that within the region there is the capacity to deploy the people, policies and programmes to end AIDS,” said UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office Director, Dr James Guwani. He was speaking at a virtual launch event hosted by UNAIDS Caribbean.

Last year there were 6,900 AIDS-related deaths in the region. Deaths due to AIDS decreased by 37% since 2010. Total antiretroviral treatment coverage for the region was 63%–71% for women and 56% for men.

New HIV infections decreased by 29% in the region since 2010. One-third of new HIV infections in the Caribbean in 2019 were among young people ages 15 – 24. Males ages 15 – 49 accounted for 57% of new infections.

“Year after year the data tell the story of Caribbean men’s inadequate access to HIV services. It is time for a comprehensive strategy to meet men where they are, increase demand and adapt service delivery to meet their needs,” Dr Guwani said.

Chair of the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (SCLAN), Kim Simplis Barrow encouraged the region to increase access to education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people.

Great strides continue to be made in the Caribbean towards the Elimination of Mother-to-child HIV transmission, with seven countries and territories achieving World Health Organization revalidation. Mother-to-child HIV transmission reduced by nearly half since 2010.

Social inequalities and exclusion are key barriers

Sixty per cent of new infections in the region were among members of key population communities and their sexual partners in 2019. This includes 26% among men who have sex with men, 6% among sex workers, 5% among transgender people and 3% among people who use drugs.

“Access to care in most of our countries is hindered by several factors including criminalisation of same-sex relationships, hostile communities, homophobic discrimination, violence internal stigma, and limited health education,” said Dr Rosmond Adams, Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP).

Prejudice against PLHIV is still commonplace. The most recent data show that while discriminatory attitudes towards PLHIV are declining consistently in some countries like Belize and Guyana, they are rebounding in others.

“We have to engage people consistently around ending discrimination. We must also improve accountability and redress mechanisms when people’s rights are violated,” Dr Guwani said.

The COVID-19 pandemic could seriously disrupt the AIDS response

UNAIDS is urging countries to increase investments in both diseases. The 2020 Global AIDS Update notes that even before COVID-19, Caribbean state health systems were struggling to cover programmes traditionally funded by international donors, including HIV prevention and key population-focused initiatives.

Between 2010 and 2019 there was a 30% decline in disbursements by the Global Fund and a 19% decline in investments by the United States Government. HIV resource availability from domestic sources increased by 38% from 2010 to 2019. At present funding is 42% short of the level needed to effectively respond to HIV in the region during 2020.

Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+) Vice-Chair, Renatta Langlais, pointed to the strain COVID-19 placed on community organizations. She said despite funding cuts, they are being forced to do more work to serve clients whose incomes and healthcare access have been impacted by the COVID-19 response.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr Joy St. John, urged health authorities to adopt measures to assure the health of people living with HIV and those with non-communicable diseases.

“Continuous monitoring and re-evaluation of considerations for vulnerable populations at risk from COVID-19 are critical, as the demographics for COVID-19 are quickly changing,” she said.

CONTACT

UNAIDS Caribbean | Cedriann Martin | martinc@unaids.org

Address ‘unprecedented’ impact of Coronavirus on Latin America and the Caribbean, urges Guterres

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have become a “hotspot of the pandemic”, the UN chief said on Thursday, releasing a new policy initiative on how best to recover in a region already embroiled in poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality.

The UN brief reveals that several countries in the region, are now among those with the highest per capita infection rates worldwide and shines a light on how the crisis is impacting vulnerable groups, including indigenous communities and women.

“The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message on the pandemic’s effect throughout a zone grappling with fragmented health services – even before the coronavirus.

‘Unprecedented’ impacts

The UN chief emphasized the impact of the coronavirus on women across the region, who make up the majority of the workforce and now bear the brunt of additional caregiving. He highlighted the plight of older persons and individuals with disabilities, who are at greater risk; and indigenous peoples, those of African descent, migrants and refugees, who suffer disproportionately.

It is projected that there will be a 9.1 per cent contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP), which will be the largest in a century.

While stressing the need to “do everything possible to limit the spread of the virus and tackle the health effects of the pandemic”, Mr Guterres noted that “we must also address the unprecedented social and economic impacts.”

Steps towards a better recovery

The policy brief underlines an array of urgent and longer-term steps for better recovery, including the prioritization of distance learning and continued child-centred services to mitigate education interruptions.

Governments within the region are also being asked to do more to reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, such as by providing basic emergency income and anti-hunger grants.

Mr Guterres also flagged the urgent need for greater international support.

“I have called for a rescue and recovery package equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the global economy”, reminded the UN chief, underscoring the need of the international community to provide liquidity, financial assistance and debt relief for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Latin American and Caribbean countries – and in particular small island developing States – should not be excluded from global assistance”, he asserted. “The international multilateral response needs to be extended to middle-income countries”.

Structural change

Broader structural challenges must be addressed to build back better and transform the region’s development model.

Against the backdrop of pervasive inequality, accessible and comprehensive welfare systems must be developed, fair taxation systems created, decent jobs promoted, environmental sustainability strengthened, and social protection mechanisms reinforced, according to the UN chief.

Moreover, regional economic integration is required, with “women participating fully and safely in public and economic life”, he stressed.

“Building back better demands strengthening democratic governance, human rights protection and the rule of law, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Mr Guterres spelt out.

Address root causes

The Secretary-General maintained that the root causes of inequality, political instability and displacement must be addressed, while underscoring that at a time when too many citizens feel excluded, “greater accountability and transparency are crucial”.

He expressed his full solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean as they face these challenges, saying that “solidarity and compassion should be their guide”.

“Together, we can overcome this crisis and build inclusive and sustainable societies for all”, concluded the UN chief.

Key numbers

•    Unemployment will surge from 8.1 per cent in 2019 to 13.5 per cent this year – yielding over 44 million people out of work, an increase of more than 18 million from last year.•    Poverty is expected to jump by 7.0 per cent to 37.2 per cent in 2020 – leaving 230 million poverty-stricken people.

•    Extreme poverty is forecast to rise by 4.5 per cent to 15.5 per cent –representing 28 million people more people in dire straits (96 million in total).

Image: World Bank/Charlotte Kesl | A seasonal worker at a store in Buga, Colombia.

UN warns of COVID-19’s effect on HIV treatment

In March 2020, the Jamaica Observer reported Dr Jennifer Brown Tomlinson, medical director at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), urging people living with HIV to ensure that they take their medication daily.

A compromised immune system, Dr Tomlinson cautioned, may not be able to function at its optimum to fight against the coronavirus.

Said Dr Tomlinson: “People living with HIV who are on their antiretroviral medication have the same risk [of contracting the novel coronavirus] as the normal population. All of the precautions that are being advised for the general population also apply to people living with HIV who are adherent to their antiretrovirals.

That very sound advice takes on more relevance now as we are being told by health experts that COVID-19 could cause an additional half a million AIDS deaths if treatment is disrupted long term.

That chilling projection was made Monday at the start of the virtual International AIDS Conference at which it was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was jeopardising years of progress against HIV.

The United Nations (UN), in its annual report, pointed out that the world was already way off course in its plan to end the HIV/AIDS threat before the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the UN, despite the fact that AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 60 per cent since the peak of the HIV epidemic in 2004, approximately 690,000 people still died from the virus and 1.7 million people were infected last year.

There are now almost 40 million people living with HIV worldwide.

The emergence and spread of the novel coronavirus now means that the UN’s target of reducing AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections to fewer than 500,000 this year will now be missed.

A key contributor to that danger is that the pandemic is impacting access to preventative medicine among communities at risk because of lockdowns and distribution difficulties.

A report from the UN conference tells us that one model run in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that if COVID-19 measures disrupted HIV treatment programmes for six months it could leave an additional 500,000 people dead.

Indeed, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is reported as saying: “We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.”

The information coming out of the UN conferences should not be lost on the just over 32,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica. Those who are not compliant with their medication need to heed Dr Tomlinson’s advice. In fact, anyone living with HIV should not, in the first place, be in a position of non-compliance.

As it now stands, our health authorities, and indeed the Government, need to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not result in a shortage of antiretroviral medicines here.

For, while, as we have already stated, we are disappointed that Jamaica will not meet the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 90-90-90 target, which was set to be attained this year, we are encouraged that JASL has already achieved one of the targets and is close to the 2020 goal of having 90 per cent of its more than 730 HIV-positive clients virally suppressed.

WHO to issue new brief on airborne transmission, following ‘active engagement’ with scientists

Epidemiologist Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, was responding to a journalist’s question about an open letter signed by hundreds of scientists urging the UN agency to update its recommendations on airborne transmission.

Dr. van Kerkhove said WHO welcomes interaction with the scientific community.

She reported that the group first wrote to the UN agency on 1 April and there has been “active engagement” since then.

“Many of the signatories are engineers, which is a wonderful area of expertise, which adds to growing knowledge about the importance of ventilation which we feel also is very important”, she said.

WHO has been studying the various potential modes of coronavirus transmission, including by airborne or aerosol droplets, but also other channels such as from mother-to-child, and from animal-to-human.

The agency is producing a scientific brief that consolidates the growing knowledge around this subject, which will be issued in the coming days.

Accelerate global solidarity

The WHO chief has repeated his longstanding appeal for global solidarity to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that although cases are accelerating globally, the peak of the pandemic has yet to be reached.

“While the number of deaths appears to have levelled off globally, in reality some countries have made significant progress in reducing the number of deaths, while in other countries, deaths are still on the rise”, he said.

“Where there has been progress in reducing deaths, countries have implemented targeted actions toward the most vulnerable groups, for example those people living in long-term care facilities.”

As of Tuesday, there were 11.4 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 535,000 deaths.

Tedros said while it took 12 weeks to reach 400,000 cases worldwide, this same number was recorded over the past weekend alone.

“I will say it again. National unity and global solidarity are more important than ever to defeat a common enemy, a virus that has taken the world hostage”, he told journalists.

“This is our only road out of this pandemic. I repeat national unity and global solidarity.”

Maintain access to HIV drugs

WHO is concerned about how the pandemic is having an impact on efforts to tackle HIV, as some 73 countries are at risk of running out of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).

To address difficulties in accessing treatment during the crisis, WHO recommends prescribing these treatments for longer periods of time, up to six months.

The UN agency also urged countries to ensure uninterrupted prevention, treatment and services for HIV amid the pandemic.

While more than 25 million people worldwide have access to ARVs,  WHO said progress has stalled in the areas of prevention, testing and treatment because services are not reaching those who most need them.

A virus that affects all

The confirmation on Tuesday that Brazil’s President has tested positive for COVID-19 shows that the disease can affect anyone, according to UN health officials.

Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly downplayed the pandemic threat, made the announcement on Brazilian television.

He joins other world leaders, senior government officials and politicians who have contracted the virus, including United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I think it brings home for us all the reality of this virus. No one is special in that regard. We are all potentially exposed to this virus”, said Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director.

“The virus does not really know who we are. Whether we are prince or pauper, we are equally vulnerable.”

Both Dr. Ryan and the WHO chief wished Mr. Bolsonaro a speedy recovery.

Tedros also highlighted how the new coronavirus is “public enemy number one”, an expression he has used throughout the pandemic.

“It’s very important to understand the seriousness of this virus and to be really serious. No country is immune, and no country is safe. And no individual can be safe”, he said.

Solving the COVID-19 ‘detective story’

WHO experts will be travelling to China this weekend to prepare scientific plans with their local counterparts for identifying the zoonotic source of COVID-19.

The team will develop the scope and terms of reference for a WHO-led international mission to advance understanding of animal hosts for the coronavirus and ascertain how the disease jumped between animals and humans.

Dr. Ryan described this as “quite a detective story”, noting that it took “decades” to unravel the source of Ebola.

“There is the wild animal kingdom, there is the farmed animal kingdom, then there are interfaces with humans. Those interfaces with humans can occur with wild animals, they can occur on farms, they can occur in markets, and we don’t know where that species barrier was actually breached”, he said.

The new coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Tedros explained that the WHO team will not be “starting from scratch” as Chinese researchers have already been studying this issue.

WHO: access to HIV medicines severely impacted by COVID-19 as AIDS response stalls

Seventy-three countries have warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new WHO survey conducted ahead of the International AIDS Society’s biannual conference. Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines.

The survey follows a modelling exercise convened by WHO and UNAIDS in May which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.

In 2019, an estimated 8.3 million people were benefiting from ARVs in the 24 countries now experiencing supply shortages. This represents about one third (33%) of all people taking HIV treatment globally.  While there is no cure for HIV, ARVs can control the virus and prevent onward sexual transmission to other people.

A failure of suppliers to deliver ARVs on time and a shut-down of land and air transport services, coupled with limited access to health services within countries as a result of the pandemic, were among the causes cited for the disruptions in the survey.

The findings of this survey are deeply concerning,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.

Stalled progress

According to data released today from UNAIDS and WHO, new HIV infections fell by 39% between 2000 and 2019. HIV-related deaths fell by 51% over the same time period, and some 15 million lives were saved through the use of antiretroviral therapy.

However, progress towards global targets is stalling. Over the last two years, the annual number of new HIV infections has plateaued at 1.7 million and there was only a modest reduction in HIV-related death, from 730 000 in 2018 to 690 000 in 2019.  Despite steady advances in scaling up treatment coverage – with more than 25 million people in need of ARVs receiving them in 2019 – key 2020 global targets will be missed.

HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most. Improved targeting of proven prevention and testing services will be critical to reinvigorating the global response to HIV.

WHO guidance and country action

COVID-19 risks exacerbating the situation. WHO recently developed guidance for countries on how to safely maintain access to essential health services during the pandemic, including for all people living with or affected by HIV. The guidance encourages countries to limit disruptions in access to HIV treatment through “multi-month dispensing,” a policy whereby medicines are prescribed for longer periods of time – up to six months. To date, 129 countries have adopted this policy.

Countries are also mitigating the impact of the disruptions by working to maintain flights and supply chains, engaging communities in the delivery of HIV medicines, and working with manufacturers to overcome logistics challenges.

New opportunities to treat HIV in young children

At the IAS conference, WHO will highlight how global progress in reducing HIV-related deaths can be accelerated by stepping up support and services for populations disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including young children. In 2019, there were an estimated 95 000 HIV-related deaths and 150 000 new infections among children. Only about half (53%) of children in need of antiretroviral therapy were receiving it.  A lack of optimal medicines with suitable pediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV.

Last month, WHO welcomed a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a new 5mg formulation of dolutegravir (DTG) for infants and children older than 4 weeks and weighing more than 3 kg. This decision will ensure that all children have rapid access to an optimal drug that, to date, has only been available for adults, adolescents and older children. WHO is committed to fast-tracking the prequalification of DTG as a generic drug so that it can be used as soon as possible by countries to save lives.

Through a collaboration of multiple partners, we are likely to see generic versions of dolutegravir for children by early 2021, allowing for a rapid reduction in the cost of this medicine,” said Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes at WHO. “This will give us another new tool to reach children living with HIV and keep them alive and healthy.”

Tackling opportunistic infections

Many HIV-related deaths result from infections that take advantage of an individual’s weakened immune system. These include bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis, viral infections like hepatitis and COVID-19, parasitic infections such as toxoplasmosis and fungal infections, including histoplasmosis.

Today, WHO is releasing new guidelines for the diagnosis and management of histoplasmosis, among people living with HIV. Histoplasmosis is highly prevalent in the WHO Region of the Americas, whereas many as 15 600 new cases and 4500 deaths are reported each year among people living with HIV. Many of these deaths could be prevented through timely diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

In recent years, the development of highly sensitive diagnostic tests has allowed for rapid and accurate confirmation of histoplasmosis and earlier initiation of treatment. However, innovative diagnostics and optimal treatments for this disease are not yet widely available in resource-limited settings.