COVID-19 could affect the availability and cost of antiretroviral medicines

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A new analysis by UNAIDS has revealed the potential impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic could have in low- and middle-income countries around the world on supplies of the generic antiretroviral medicines used to treat HIV.
The UNAIDS survey discovered that the lockdowns and border closures imposed to stop COVID-19 are impacting both the production of medicines and their distribution, potentially leading to increases in their cost and to supply issues, including stock-outs over the next two months.
“It is vital that countries urgently make plans now to mitigate the possibility and impacts of higher costs and reduced availability of antiretroviral medicines,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “I call on countries and buyers of HIV medicines to act swiftly in order to ensure that everyone who is currently on treatment continues to be on it, saving lives and stopping new HIV infections.”
Since 24.5 million people were on antiretroviral therapy at the end of June 2019, millions of people could be at risk of harm-both to themselves and others owing to an increased risk of HIV transmission-if they cannot continue to access their treatment. A recent modelling exercise estimated that a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa alone could lead to 500 000 additional AIDS-related deaths.