Wednesday, 08 July 2020

China: World Health Organization (WHO) experts have travelled to China where they will work together with their Chinese counterparts to prepare scientific plans to identify the zoonotic source of COVID-19.

The experts will develop the scope and terms  of reference for a WHO-led international mission.

“The mission objective is to advance the understanding of animal hosts for COVID-19 and ascertain how the disease jumped between animals and humans,” said the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Tuesday.

To date, there have been 11 500 302 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 535 759 deaths reported globally.

COVID-19 affects access to HIV treatment

With the 23rd International AIDS Conference taking place virtually this week, Ghebreyesus expressed deep concern about the impact of COVID-19 on HIV treatment.

A new WHO survey showed access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed as a result of the pandemic with 73 countries reporting that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on treatment access, WHO recommended that all countries prescribe ARVs for longer periods of time.

“Up to six months while supply chains for all medicines are fully functioning.

“Similarly, shortages of condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis can prove costly and WHO calls for countries to ensure uninterrupted prevention, testing and treatment services for HIV,” said Ghebreyesus.

The disruptions in access to life-saving commodities and services come at a critical moment as progress in the global response to HIV stalls.

Over the last two years, numbers of new HIV infections stabilised at 1.7 million annually and there was only a modest reduction in AIDS-related deaths.

While more than 25 million people now have access to ARVs, WHO said global targets for prevention, testing and treatment are off target.

“Progress is stalling because HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most,” said Ghebreyesus.

Going forward, WHO urged countries to expand access to services for vulnerable groups through stronger community engagement, improved service delivery and tackling stigma and discrimination.