• Sofia Eugeniou

HIV risk has increased globally for women and girls since COVID-19 lockdowns

Government-enforced lockdowns to combat the spread of the coronavirus have hindered the fight against HIV infection in women and girls globally by limiting their access to education and protection from sexual violence, warns the United Nations.


Last year there were approximately 38 million people across the globe with HIV/AIDS. Despite 2019 experiencing a marked decline of HIV infections since 2010 with a 23 per cent drop, progression on the transmission of HIV infection remains slow.


Though HIV diagnoses among women have declined in recent years, the coronavirus outbreak has hampered efforts and systems put in place to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to women.


A study by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has drawn attention to the fact that government bodies around the world have shifted their focus and resources away from protecting vulnerable demographics and populations from HIV.


According to the executive director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, "This pandemic thrives on inequalities and COVID-19 is threatening to throw us off course".

Image credit: Deutsche Welle (DW)

In line with Byanyima's statement, we are seeing and experiencing the devastating and unequal impact the disease has had on members of the BAME community.


With domestic violence cases surging by double or triple their usual rate during the lockdown period, UNAIDS has highlighted the risk domestic violence is having for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV infection. Women and girls of this region already accounted for 59 per cent of new HV infections in 2019 before the onset on the pandemic.


Before lockdown protocols, progress was being seen in transmission rates of HIV among women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.


Founder of the Bolivian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Grace Violeta Ross, said: "Those of us who survived HIV and fought for life and access to treatment and care cannot afford losing the gains that took so much effort to win".


The outbreak of other severe diseases in certain regions of Africa and South America alongside the COVID-19 crisis, such as Ebola, malaria, and tuberculosis, have also disrupted healthcare services and attention that were previously dedicated to fighting HIV.


It is important that those suffering from HIV, or have a high risk of catching it - such as young girls and women - are not forgotten or left behind.

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