The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria in 2020, according to a new report released by the Global Fund. The Results Report 2021 shows that while some progress was made, key programmatic results have declined for the first time in the history of the Global Fund.
“To mark our 20th anniversary, we had hoped to focus this year’s Results Report on the extraordinary stories of courage and resilience that made possible the progress we have achieved against HIV, TB and malaria over the last two decades,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, in a press release. “But the 2020 numbers force a different focus. They confirm what we feared might happen when COVID-19 struck.”
For Mustapha Gidado, Executive Director of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation (KNCV), it is also a confirmation of what KNCV encounters in many countries where it offers technical assistance. Gidado: “We see every day how COVID-19 impacts TB patients, healthcare systems and our own colleagues and families around the world. It is heartbreaking that global efforts in the fight against TB are being set back. At the same time, I think many of us working in partnership with the Global Fund can be proud of the lives saved in the last 20 years through this mechanism, even though we still have a long way to reaching our targets. At KNCV, we support the COVID-19 response with our TB experience. While also stepping up efforts to protect and improve TB services in a patient-centred way.”
The people affected
- In 2020, 4,7 million people, in Global Fund supported countries, were treated for TB. It is a 18% decline vis-à-vis 2019 as reported by Global Fund.
- The number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in the countries where the Global Fund invests also dropped by a staggering 19%, compared to 2019.
- With those on treatment for extensively drug-resistant TB registering an even bigger drop of 37% in 2020, compared to 2019.
- The number of HIV-positive TB patients on antiretroviral treatment as well as TB treatment dropped by 16% in 2020, compared to 2019.
- A hopeful increase was made in preventive therapy for children exposed to TB patients. In 2020 the number of children receiving this therapy increased by 13%, to 194,000 children, compared to 2019.
While putting many efforts backwards, COVID-19 has at the same time catalyzed a multitude of innovations across all three diseases, states Peter Sands in the Results Reports 2020. “Such as multi-month dispensing of TB and HIV drugs; using digital tools to monitor TB treatment or enhance prevention interventions; and introducing patient-centred diagnostic approaches, such as co-testing for HIV, TB and COVID-19. Many of these innovations will outlast the crisis and strengthen our fight against HIV, TB and malaria.”
KNCV underlines this statement. KNCV is one of the driving forces of these new developments in the fight against TB. “We are thankful to contribute by empowering patients and strengthening TB diagnostics, prevention and care, even in these extremely challenging times”, says Gidado. “Together we can regain the ground we have lost due to COVID-19. There is no time to waste.”
Learn more about some of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundations projects:
- The Patient-Centred Framework for TB Programming – an online knowledge hub funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is recently launched by KNCV. It is freely accessible for all.
- The ASCENT project implements and generates evidence on the use of digital adherence technologies. This Unitaid funded project is led by KNCV and thousands of patients in five countries are currently enrolled in this cross-national study.
- The KNCV SOS Stool Method is offering a patient-friendly TB diagnoses for small children and people living with HIV.