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COVID-19 may derail progress on HIV, TB, malaria by disrupting medical supplies

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The Global Fund has warned that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) could derail progress on Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV), Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, through disruption of treatments or other interventions in supply chains of medicines and medical supplies.

It said yesterday that experience from the 2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa suggested that unless mitigating action is taken, additional deaths from existing diseases such as malaria could be at least as high as those from the outbreak itself.

To address the situation, the Global Fund announced new guidance to enable countries to strengthen their responses to COVID-19 by using existing grants in a swift, nimble and pragmatic way.

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The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing and partnership organisation that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), TB and malaria to support attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Working within its mandate to fight HIV, TB, and malaria and to strengthen systems for health, the Global Fund is encouraging countries to reprogramme savings from existing grants and redeploy underutilised resources to mitigate potential negative consequences of COVID-19 on health and health systems.

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In exceptional cases, countries may be able to reprogramme funding from existing grants to COVID-19 response.

Executive Director of Global Fund, Peter Sands, said: “As was the case with Ebola, we are committed to a pragmatic and flexible approach in supporting countries to fight against COVID-19.

“Our priority is to ensure continuity of lifesaving programmes to end HIV, TB and malaria. However, COVID-19 could knock us off track. People infected with HIV, TB, and malaria could prove more vulnerable to the new virus given that their immune systems are already under strain.”

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Strong health systems are critical to help countries respond to COVID-19 and to reinforce health security. The Global Fund is the largest multilateral provider of grants to strengthen health systems, investing over $1 billion a year in key components such as community health workers, disease surveillance systems, supply chains, laboratory networks.

He said the Global Fund encourages countries to consider and take prompt action under World Health Organisation (WHO’s) guidance, stressing, “Particular attention should be given to health worker protection, communication to affected communities, maintenance of essential services, supply chain coordination, early replenishment of stocks, disinfection of assets and waste management.

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