The All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS has called on Governments across the world to provide greater focus, investment and engagement on improving public health and health systems, following the publication of its report into Covid and HIV.
The report reveals the alarming impact of Covid on HIV services in the poorest parts of the world which, if not addressed, could lead to two decades of progress being eroded in a single year. The impact of the pandemic in these nations, and the decision by some governments to target specific vulnerable groups as part of their response, is raising serious human rights concerns and will only make testing, treatment and prevention of both HIV and Covid more difficult.
In particular the report highlights a number of risk factors which apply to both Covid and HIV. These include the need to address stigma associated with both conditions, which is damaging to the public health response, and the need to address funding and support for BAME communities which are particularly impacted by both HIV and Covid due to health inequalities and long-standing discrimination. The impact of Covid on mental health is also a major concern, adherence to treatment affected by poor mental health. Risk-taking behaviours and infection rates are therefore likely to increase unless the lack of appropriate mental health services for people living with HIV is addressed.
Dr Ben Spencer MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG, said:
Public health is going to be one of our biggest challenges of the next decade. Ensuring those who need it have equal access to healthcare is always going to be challenging but it is essential – the impact of Covid risks increasing inequalities and distracting from pre-existing health threats such as the HIV epidemic.
Failure to prioritise and invest in public health could result in health outcomes far worse than those of the pandemic. We must ensure our action now protects not just those at risk from Covid, but also those who will rely on our health systems in the future.
In the UK, HIV treatment, care and prevention efforts have also been hindered by Covid, with the report also raising concerns over equal access to support. The recent announcement of the merger of DFID and the FCO, its impact on the aid budget and the lack of clarity on the future focus on global health in the government’s international aid priorities, are also raised as concerning factors if the UK is to meet its commitment zero new infections by 2030.
The full report can be found here.