A new report released Wednesday says the COVID-19 pandemic had a “devastating” impact in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis last year.
The Global Fund, an alliance of governments, civil society groups and private sector entities, says the number of people reached with HIV prevention programs and services declined 11 percent in 2020 compared with the year before, while testing for HIV dropped 22 percent last year.
The number of people treated for drug-resistant tuberculosis fell by 19 percent in countries where the Fund invests -- a figure the Geneva-based group described as “staggering” -- while those being treated for “extensively” drug-resistant tuberculosis plummeted by 37 percent.
Peter Sands, the executive director of The Global Fund, told the Reuters news agency that about one million fewer people were treated for tuberculosis in 2020 than the year before, a fact he says will “inevitably mean that hundreds of thousands of people will die.”
The Fund said programs to fight malaria appear to have been “less badly affected” by COVID-19 than HIV or tuberculosis.
Meanwhile, the Bloomberg news service says a study conducted in South Africa found that Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the disease by about half. The study, which involved nearly half a million health workers in the country, found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was about 70 percent effective against hospitalization and as much as 96 percent effective against death.
Glenda Gray, the study’s co-leader, tells Bloomberg the final results from the study will be submitted for publication in days.
While the European Union is boasting an average vaccination rate of 70 percent, the rates are much lower among eastern European nations compared to those in western Europe. Only 20 percent of all citizens in Bulgaria have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the lowest rate among all 27-member EU nations, while deaths have surged in recent weeks. The New York Times says similar circumstances have also been found in countries like Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Observers blame the discrepancies on doubts about the vaccines due to misinformation, along with deep mistrust of authorities and institutions.
More than 222 million people around the globe have tested positive for COVID-19, including 4.5 million deaths, since the outbreak was first detected in late 2019 in central China, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The United States has now surpassed 40 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, including more than 650,690 deaths, leading the world in both categories. COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus.
(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse.)