Almost one-third of patients with HIV in China are within days of running out of their ART medications due to quarantines and other restrictions put in place to control the COVID-19 outbreak, and nearly half do not know where to collect their refill of antiretrovirals, a UNAIDS survey found.
UNAIDS said it was working with China to ensure access to HIV treatment and also noted several efforts underway in the country — including by the Chinese CDC — to reach patients.
“People living with HIV must continue to get the HIV medicines they need to keep them alive,” UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement. “I applaud the efforts of the Chinese National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention to support people living with HIV affected by the lockdowns to get their medicines — we must ensure that everyone who needs HIV treatment gets it, no matter where they are.”
More than 1,000 patients with HIV responded to the survey between Feb. 5 and 10. According to UNAIDS, 32.6% said they were at risk for running out of their HIV treatment “in the coming days” and 48.6% reported not knowing where to collect their medication.
UNAIDS noted that some patients who were away when lockdowns were implemented have been prevented from returning home to access HIV services from their usual health care providers.
Most survey respondents — 90% — said they wanted more information on specific protective measures that patients with HIV could take against the novel coronavirus. Byanyima said scientists “must fill in the gaps in our knowledge, and fill those gaps in rapidly.”
“We need to know how many people living with HIV are contracting COVID-19, whether people living with HIV are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and, if they contract it, whether they are in greater danger from it — at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak there are so many unknowns,” she said.
According to WHO, there were 1.25 million people with HIV living in China at the end of 2018. – by Gerard Gallagher
Disclosure: Byanyima reports no relevant financial disclosures.