Image credit: Jeffrey Beall

It was only several days ago when the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) expressed concern that the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic might cause an HIV medication shortage. It now looks like that shortage is beginning.

CNBC reports that a survey conducted by the World Health Organization has revealed that there are now 24 countries around the world that have reported that their stock of antiretroviral medication is at a “critically low” level, while more than 70 countries run the risk of running out of antiretroviral medication because of the disruption brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The survey results come a couple of weeks after UNAIDS announced that antiretroviral drug shortages are likely to happen because of the lockdowns brought about by the coronavirus. The shortages could, in turn, drive up the prices of antiretroviral drugs available on the market.

Back then, UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima called on countries to have mitigation plans in place to deal with the impact this will have, and World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed Byanyima’s call to action in the statement released by the World Health Organization.

“Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease,” he said.

Preparing for this shortage and minimizing its effects are crucial, as the shortage is likely to affect millions. According to the World Health Organization, more than 25 million people underwent treatment using antiretroviral medication in 2019. The organization does not expect to meet that target this year.

Failing to act now will also make things even more difficult down the line as it does not look like the global coronavirus pandemic is stopping anytime soon. According to the July 19 situation report from the World Health Organization, there are now 22.7M confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world. The number of people that have died from the disease is now at almost 800,000 people.

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