On 12 November 2020, Positive Women Together in Action an organization in Eswatini held a roundtable discussion jointly organized with GFAN Africa on the impact of COVID-19 on young women and adolescent girls living with HIV. During the conversations, the young women and girls shared their experiences on accessing treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 33 participants from various support groups from different communities in the four regions of Eswatini spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on women and AGYW living with HIV.
On a positive note, the multi-month dispensary of ART medication was implemented. Participants felt this was a positive impact of COVID-19 because before the pandemic they used to visit the healthcare centres for their refill and the cost was catastrophically high for them.
The young women and girls appreciated the food parcels and COVID-19 grant support being provided by the Government through the National disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and other organizations while others received financial support, which has never happened before the pandemic.
Discussing the negative impact of COVID-19, participants noted that there was an increase in the number of cases of gender-based violence during the lockdown period. “Partners spent their days together and started realizing each other’s shortfalls and this led to violence within homes” noted Thabisile Mavimbela. Stress, trauma, depression and general mental health challenges led to increased cases of gender-based violence.
‘’I have seen that our health sector has neglected other health conditions. Health workers deliver ART medication to our homes but why don’t they bring medication for other conditions so that they deliver a comprehensive service?’’ asked Cebsile Shabangu during the conversation.
The Government of Eswatini must sustain focus on all life threatening diseases amid COVID-19.