As the world races to end the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts say it is critical that progress continues in the fight against HIV on this World AIDS Day.
"COVID has created enormous challenges," Chip Lyons said.
Lyons is the president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, a nonprofit working to prevent pediatric HIV infection and eliminate AIDS in children. Lyons says COVID-19 has been especially disruptive in remote regions of Africa battling HIV infections.
"There are fewer visits to the clinic, fewer antenatal care visits for women who are pregnant, supply chain of medicines has been disrupted," Lyons said.
According to the U.N., roughly 38 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were documented more than 35 years ago. Health experts say if the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to be tackled in the years ahead, COVID-19 must first be conquered.
"We are calling on companies to openly share their technology and know-how and to waive their intellectual property rights so that the world can produce the successful vaccines to the huge scale required to protect everyone," Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said.
"What we most welcome also is that we all take the steps that we can to conquer COVID and then conquer HIV and AIDS," Lyons said.
Lyons says the sooner the pandemic is brought to an end, the sooner organizations like his can begin crucial catch-up efforts in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"There are patients that we won't have been able to test these last number of months. There will be new infections. There will have been supply disruptions," Lyons said. "So we're going to have a major job to do to get back to where we were in terms of levels of care and treatment, and see further drops in the rate of new HIV infections in the areas where we work."