On 3 September, GFAN Africa, CS4ME and the Africa Coalition on Tuberculosis organized a webinar titled Dialogue on the HIV, TB and Malaria Response Amid COVID-19. The webinar is one of the series of activities organized by GFAN Africa as part of the #TheBeatContinues campaign in efforts to defeat COVID-19 and mitigate its effects of the disease on HIV, TB and Malaria. In her remarks, Linda Mafu the head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy at the Global Fund noted that COVID-19 is a global emergency that requires a global response. She emphasized that in the spirit of UHC, no one should be left behind. She called for deep community engagement as communities are most affected by COVID-19; which has resulted in increased out of pocket spending leading to more poverty and increased vulnerability to HIV, TB and malaria
Maurine Murenga a community leader and a global health advocate noted that during crises, girls and women suffer the most. “When girls are out of school for long, as has been occasioned by COVID-19, they are less likely to go back. While in school, they are less likely to engage in sex and are less vulnerable to HIV”. She underscored the need for a gender sensitive approach to the COVID-19 response. In addition, she noted that economies have been weakened by COVID-19. She called for civil society creativity in advocacy for the allocation of increased domestic resources for health. “This year is tough in the fight against malaria. There have been difficulties and delays in distributing mosquito nets because of the COVID-19 disruption” noted Olivia Ngou the Executive Director of Impact Sante Afrique. She added that the situation is further complicated because communities are avoiding visiting health facilities when they have a fever. She emphasized the need for increased advocacy at community level to encourage communities to seek healthcare services when they have a fever or fall ill. She added that the protection of frontline healthcare workers is of utmost importance.
Here are the key messages from the webinar
To defeat COVID-19 and safeguard the critical fight against HIV, TB & malaria, additional domestic and international funding is needed. We must measure success not just in reducing the death toll from COVID-19; but also in reducing the impact of the pandemic, including the knock-on effects on existing diseases. Without additional funding to fight COVID-19, countries will; be unable to deliver on their targets for lifesaving services for ongoing HIV, TB and malaria programs; be unable to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their health workers, putting their lives at risk and contributing to ongoing transmission of the virus; and be unable to purchase additional COVID-19 tests or treatments that are critical to fighting the virus and saving lives.
To defeat COVID-19, the response must address gender barriers, stigma & discrimination, and protect human rights. The global response to COVID-19 must take lessons from the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. These include ensuring that the response protects human rights and address stigma and discrimination and removes gender and human rights barriers to health.
To defeat COVID-19, protect progress against HIV, TB and malaria, and save lives, we must unite to fight. Diseases do not respect borders. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it clear that our global health security is only as strong as the world’s weakest health system. Around the world, people are uniting to fight. Health workers, governments, businesses, technical agencies, advocates and individuals are working together to continue the fight against infectious diseases and save lives. The Global Fund, the largest multilateral investor in grants for health systems worldwide, has provided immediate funding of up to US$1 billion to help countries fight COVID-19, mitigate the impact on lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs, and prevent fragile health systems from being overwhelmed. As advocates across the Africa region we are uniting to fight.
We #UniteToFight HIV, TB, Malaria and COVID-19 to save lives and so #TheBeatContinues