New Report Shows Extent of COVID-19 Disruption on Health Service Delivery

 
 
Healthcare Worker PPE Zambia

The COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago, and while we’ve learned so much about the virus itself since last March, we’re only now beginning to understand its catastrophic effects on life-saving health programs.

Last week, the Global Fund released a new report detailing the extent of COVID-19’s disruption on health service delivery for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria between April and September 2020. The report, which is based on a survey of over 500 health facilities across Africa and Asia, reveals a significant decline in the number of people accessing critical health services and highlights the devastating effect of one pandemic on several others.

  • Compared to the same six-month period in 2019, HIV testing fell 41% in 2020, meaning that people run a higher risk of not knowing their HIV status and as a result, are not accessing the treatment they need to stay healthy. Additionally, this means people run a risk of unknowingly passing the virus to others.

  • Antenatal care—the regular medical check-ins that mothers access during pregnancy, and an essential part of preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies—was down 43% in 2020 compared to the same six-month period in 2019.

  • Only 45% of health facilities had enough essential personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, disinfectant, gloves, and hand sanitizer, for their health workers. Lack of PPE threatens their safety and their ability to care for patients.

However, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

The Global Fund report also shows countries that adapted their health service delivery amid COVID-19 fared better than those that did not. More than two-thirds of all surveyed facilities in Africa and Asia implemented at least one adaptive measure–such as dispensing long-term supplies of HIV and TB medicines, or switching to a door-to-door delivery system for mosquito nets and preventative malaria medicines—to mitigate the impact of COVID on health services. 

This latest Global Fund report proves that investing in strong health systems and scaling up access to healthcare is critical to fighting pandemics, whether AIDS or COVID. Now more than ever, (RED) and our partners remain committed to supporting the Global Fund COVID-19 Response.