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Aidshilfe calls for more effort in the fight against HIV: “Successes in danger”

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A woman has pinned a red bow to herself. © Oliver Berg/dpa

The corona pandemic has pushed the disease AIDS with all its dangers into the background. Experts are now calling for this to change.

HIV, on the other hand, don’t you just take a pill and it’s good? Dealing with the viral disease is not that easy to this day, even though there have been significant advances in therapy and treatment options in recent years. For the first time in the history of the disease, it is now possible for people with HIV to live a normal life, provided the infection is detected in good time and therapy can be started quickly and the viral load can be kept permanently below the detection limit. However, studies in recent years have also shown that comorbidities still occur from time to time, i.e. the HI virus negatively promotes other diseases such as heart disease.

It is therefore very important for HIV patients to have an all-encompassing view of their own health, taking the famous tablet once a day is not enough. For the approximately 90,000 HIV-positive people in Germany, the supply situation is very good, quite the opposite of that in many other countries. However, one problem affects all countries: Since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, HIV research has come to a massive standstill. Many clinics increasingly focused on fighting and containing Covid-19, the HI virus took a back seat.

World AIDS Conference to bring HIV back into focus

At the 24th World AIDS Conference in Montréal, Canada, in August, the turnaround should be successful and HIV should once again be the focus of research. Holger Wicht from the Deutsche Aidshilfe (DAH) was also on site. He told Buzzfeed News Germany: “The conference sent out a strong signal here which I hope will be heard. The federal government should now set a good example by increasing German contributions to 1.8 billion euros. That would be appropriate to the German economy, and the money is urgently needed after the Covid crisis and especially with a view to the situation in Ukraine.”

The core aspect of the financing is the so-called replenishment conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) in New York in September – the fund finances numerous programs for HIV intervention in economically weaker countries. The fund has to be refinanced every three years, for which around 18 billion US dollars are required. Most recently, Germany had contributed a good billion euros – the DAH is now hoping for a doubling of the benefits. Sylvia Urban from the board of DAH also confirmed how important this is: “The successes of the last decades are in danger – and with it the life and health of millions of people!”

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Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the supply of HIV medication has collapsed

One thing we should have learned since Covid at the latest – complex diseases and pandemics can no longer be viewed locally in a globalized world. If the HIV situation worsens dramatically in Africa, for example, this will ultimately affect Europe and Germany as well. Ukraine is one such example. Even before the war, the country was one of the HIV epicenters in Europe with around 330,000 HIV-positive people (UNAIDS estimate). Since the outbreak of the war, the supply of HIV medication has gradually collapsed, which is why the World Health Organization now assumes several thousand fatalities due to a lack of medication alone.

Another important aspect in addition to improving the general situation is the exchange between experts – several thousand HIV experts from all over the world came together again this time, the conference is the largest of its kind worldwide. “We hoped for networking and exchange, that the interests and needs of people affected or threatened by HIV would be articulated, that strategies and solutions would be shared and that we could all learn from one another. That was possible, but to a lesser extent than planned because many people did not receive visas.” The scandal overshadowed the World AIDS Conference, because several hundred planned participants from Africa, Asia and South America could not even go to Montréal come, Canada refused them entry. The Canadian government feared that visitors from Africa in particular would not leave after the conference.

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“Research has not stopped, but many scientists were initially concerned with Covid”

In the end, a very mixed conclusion remains, a lot now depends on the next steps, which Germany will also take, says Wicht from the DAH: “Research has not stopped, but many scientists were initially concerned with Covid. Hopefully many of them can now turn to HIV again. We have three pandemics at the same time – HIV, Covid and monkeypox. Everyone needs our full attention! This was also underlined by the renowned virologist Anthony Fauci in Montréal. He said: You can’t take a break from an epidemic and say: We’ll continue tomorrow.” (Author: JHM Schmucker)

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