COVID-19 NATIONAL RESPONSE: IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC AMONG PERSONS LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS

BACKGROUND

The upsurge/rise in covid-19 pandemic has really affected various segments of the world’s population. Among the population mostly affected are the the vulnerable persons in the society, especially Persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). There is no doubt that COVID-19 infection came without any form of readiness on the part of mankind, and this had claimed millions of lives while we keep recording increase in the number of dead people every day as well as increase in the number of people who are infected with the virus.

Impact of COVID-19 on PLWHA.

Statistics shows that over 22.7 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS within 2020 and are receiving Antiretroviral Drugs. It appears HIV/AIDS no longer exists because of the impact of COVID-19, however, HIV/AIDS still remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low and middle income countries. Since the outburst of covid19 infection, it seems the government have diverted its attention from PLWHA to people infected with Covid-19 infections.

Funding was actually a supporting factor that has really helped PLWHA to access their drugs in health care centers. What these means is that, with the help of funds it enables them to run the different kind of tests they needed before getting their drugs through their health care facilities, but with the outburst of COVID-19, funds were not made available for drugs to get into the hands of PLWHA. This has worsened the medical condition of many PLWHA and has resulted to deaths of some of them.

Also, access to health care facilities was a major challenge for PLWHA because with the lock down many PLWHIV were unable to access the health care facilities, leaving them physiological traumatized because the renewal of their drugs was due but they had no way of getting/accessing the drugs, since hospitals were locked down. There was no form of Tele-medicine, that is, the means of referral by which patients who are in need of their drugs are able to access their drugs within their locality.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused untold hardship for many people as they were unable to go about their businesses and normal life activities. This was a challenging period for them as their source of livelihood and means of survival were put on hold and no money to pay for their drugs/treatment because of the lockdown.

There is need to sensitize PLWHA on the precautionary measures to be taken to avoid contracting Covid-19 infection. They need to be informed about safety measures required to prevent them from getting infected. HIV/AIDS is already a health challenge for PLWHA. The challenge becomes higher if they get exposed to COVID-19 infection. To prevent the double challenges, COVID-19 sensitization should not be left out with PLWHA as they are also affected like other normal persons who do not follow the safety and precautionary measures given by WHO (World Health Organization), as a means of not getting infected by the virus.

Remedies

Government should tackle the gap in the funding of HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 pandemic. HIV/AIDS is also a deadly disease that needs government interventions to enable PLWHA to carry out the necessary tests required before accessing the drugs for their treatment. Also, Telemedicine should be considered as another medium of facilitating treatment, if in the future there is a re-occurrence of such pandemic. This will enable patients to have access to health care professionals at a distance, using telecommunications to get proper treatment for their ailments.

This also includes the adoption of tele-medicine into our health care systems to enable patients to access drugs, healthcare facilities, or pharmaceutical shops close to them. This will help keep their health status in check.

Another suggestion is the creation of awareness and sensitization on covid-19 among PLWHA. The awareness/sensitization will include educating PLWHA on the preventive measures against Covid-19 infection and how to curtail the spread from infected persons to non- infected persons. PLWHA are to be sensitized because having HIV/AIDS does not prevent them from contracting covid-19, if they are not following the preventive measures which includes the use of face masks.

Finally, we recommend that our governments should regularly enforce preventive measures against COVID-19 infection which includes: avoiding overcrowding in public places, use of face mask, washing of hands with soap and water, and use of alcoholic based hand sanitizer should also be enforced in public places. Social gathering should be banned and social distancing should be enforced. As citizens of the country, we observe and enforce the preventive measures, it is hoped that COVID-19 infection will be effectively controlled and reduced to the barest minimum, not only among PLWHA but among members of the public as a whole.

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