25M couples in India couldn’t access contraceptives due to COVID

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted contraceptive access for an estimated over 25 million couples in India, said a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Health officials in some low- and middle-income countries are bracing for a surge in new births due to interruptions to contraceptive access during the pandemic, said the report titled “Prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre.”

The report highlighted that the global AIDS response was off track before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the rapid spread of the coronavirus has created additional setbacks.

Modelling of the pandemic’s long-term impact on the HIV response shows that there could be an estimated 123,000 to 293 000 additional new HIV infections and 69,000 to 148,000 additional AIDS-related deaths between 2020 and 2022, said the report released ahead of World AIDS Day 2020 on December 1.

“The collective failure to invest sufficiently in comprehensive, rights-based, people-centred HIV responses has come at a terrible price,” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said in a statement.

“Implementing just the most politically palatable programmes will not turn the tide against COVID-19 or end AIDS. To get the global response back on track will require putting people first and tackling the inequalities on which epidemics thrive.”

Although some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Botswana and Eswatini, have done remarkably well and have achieved or even exceeded the targets set for 2020, many more countries are falling way behind.

The report highlighted that insufficient investment and action on HIV and other pandemics left the world exposed to COVID-19.

Had health systems and social safety nets been even stronger, the world would have been better positioned to slow the spread of COVID-19 and withstand its impact.

COVID-19 has shown that investments in health save lives but also provide a foundation for strong economies.

“No country can defeat these pandemics on its own,” said Byanyima.

“A challenge of this magnitude can only be defeated by forging global solidarity, accepting a shared responsibility and mobilising a response that leaves no one behind. We can do this by sharing the load and working together.”

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