African the Ernest Foundation UK hiv

African HIV programmes ‘resilient’ during COVID-19 pandemic

Data from over 1000 health facilities in eleven countries in sub-Saharan Africa showed a transient effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV services, followed by a rapid recovery, CROI 2021 heard last week.

Data were collected from October 2019 to September 2020 from health facilities which ICAP at Columbia University provides technical support to, with funding from PEPFAR. COVID-19 control measures were introduced in most countries in March 2020, at the end of the second quarter analysed.

Comparing January-March and April-June, there was a 3.3% decline in the number of people tested for HIV, a 9.5% decline in the number of people with a positive diagnosis and a corresponding 9.8% decline in people starting HIV treatment.

In the following quarter (July-September), there was a rapid rebound, with testing up 10.6%, positive diagnoses up 9.0% and people starting treatment up 9.8%.

The overall number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy did not decline during the year and in fact rose steadily, from 419,028 to 476,010. Throughout, over 60% received viral-load testing and viral suppression increased – from 87.5% to 90.1%.