46th PCB - Agenda item 1.3: Report of the Executive Director - Written Statement by Violeta Ross, Latin America and the Caribbean, on behalf of the NGO Delegation

46th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board

The NGO Delegation thanks the Executive Director for her report and her important work.

As a delegation deeply connected to civil society, we need to emphasize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for many of us living with HIV. One example of this impact is the one I witnessed in some Latin American countries.

Due to the demands of the COVID-19 epidemic, we see increasing limitations in HIV testing and access to antiretroviral medications. Those of us living with HIV know the risk of a potential disruption in HIV medications in the near future, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the cancelation of commercial flights, the problems in the countries that produce generic antiretroviral medications and the exclusive focus of some governments on COVID-19, perhaps leaving HIV behind”.

Another issue we are very concerned about is the reallocation of resources of the Global Fund. After a letter from that organisation, some countries started re-programing HIV, TB and malaria resources for the COVID-19 response. Because of the lockdown, some of those decisions were taken by the governments without the proper consultation with civil society. For example in Bolivia, my country, last week, the Ministry of Health sent an instruction to all HIV centers to use GenXpert machines for COVID-19 testing. A huge amount of lopinavir/ritonavir medication has been donated for treatment of COVID-19 patients. The health staff who regularly provides HIV care and prevention services, are being sent to COVID-19 hospitals.

Latin America was already transitioning from the Global Fund grants; however, after the COVID-19 outbreaks in Latin America are controlled, I am not sure the transition from the Global Fund will be possible and in which conditions, as health systems are being pushed to the edge and to extreme crises.

Many of my friends with HIV died while waiting for access to medications and testing equipment like GenXpert to be real on the ground. We fought for a correct inclusion of communities, which included participation in the design, implementation and accountability, but now we are losing all of these gains, just in months of the COVID-19 outbreak.

What can the Joint Programme, UNAIDS PCB Members and the Executive Director do about it? You can help us by recommending and asking governments to maintain, secure, and guarantee the provision of basic HIV prevention and care services. The response to COVID-19 cannot be to the detriment of the HIV response, we cannot leave HIV behind.


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