Around 80% of HIV care workers have reported a decline in preventive prescriptions for persons at risk of contracting the virus, with the Covid-19 pandemic playing a significant part in the fall, a recent survey has found. The survey, that sought to assess the barriers to HIV care access during the pandemic, also found that more than 1 in 3 persons among the at-risk population reported that they had either decreased or stopped taking HIV preventive medicine.
The survey, “Impact of COVID-19 on access and delivery of HIV care in Asia Pacific”, was conducted online, from October to mid-November 2020, in 10 countries/territories in the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam) by Kantar Health. Funded by Gilead Sciences with support from the AIDS Society of India, its results come ahead of World AIDS Day (December 1).
A total of 1,265 respondents, comprising people living with HIV, at-risk persons and HIV care prescribers, participated in the survey, including 96 from India.
An analysis of the responses showed that Covid-19 had a big impact on the uptake of HIV tests, especially among the at-risk population. About 46% of the at-risk population reported a decrease in the frequency of taking HIV tests during the pandemic. The main reasons for reduced testing were concerns of getting infected with Covid-19 (62%) and travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic (46%)— this is because HIV tests were mostly only accessible at the point of care.
In the Asia-Pacific region, there are more than 5.8 million people living with HIV. According to 2017 data for India, there are 2.1 million people living with HIV. That year, 88,000 people were newly infected with HIV while 69,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses. According to a recent UNAIDS report, disruption to HIV care could lead to thousands of more deaths. The data collected from this regional survey on HIV testing, treatment and prevention, aim to provide insights into current gaps and barriers to care, and action that can be taken to sustain critical healthcare services for HIV, Dr I S Gilada, President, AIDS Society of India told The Indian Express.