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Focus on Covid-19 to increase malaria, tuberculosis and HIV related deaths in 5 years: Study

The study further stated that due to the coronavirus pandemic, five years of progress on tuberculosis treatment could be lost.

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New Delhi: As the world’s efforts and funding focus singularly on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, deaths related to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are expected to increase in the next five years, a study has revealed.

According to the projections, HIV deaths could increase by up to 10 per cent, deaths related to TB could increase by to 20 per cent and for malaria, it could be up to 36 per cent.

Published 1 May, it was titled The Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic on HIV, TB and Malaria in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, and was conducted by the Imperial College London’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, and Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics.

The study stated that the coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm health systems across the world and cause disruptions by preventing access to treatment and medical supplies. For each disease, the study found different disruptions. In the case of tuberculosis (TB), the damage to treatment would caused be a reduction in timely diagnosis and treatment of new cases due to Covid-19 interventions, while treatment for malaria would be disrupted by reduced prevention activities. In terms of HIV, the disruption would be to the supply of antiretroviral therapy.

The study was commissioned by Geneva-based body Stop TB Partnership in collaboration with the Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University, and was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Also read: Modi govt under-performed in meeting 2019 targets it had set towards eliminating TB

Five years of TB progress lost due to Covid-19

The study further highlighted that due to the coronavirus pandemic, five years of progress on TB response would be lost. It said that following the three-month lockdown and subsequent 10-month restoration period, the world will likely see 6.3 million additional cases of TB and 1.4 million additional TB deaths between 2020-2025.

The study extrapolated estimates from India, Kenya and Ukraine to create a global estimate of the impact of Covid-19 on tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million people died of TB in 2018, while 10 million people fell ill due to the disease. It is also among the top 10 causes of death in the world.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan shared the findings of the study on Twitter.

Twitter screenshot
Screenshot of WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan’s tweet sharing the report’s findings

Associate professor of mathematical epidemiology at Imperial College London, Nimalan Arinaminpathy said, “In fact, it takes several years for the elevated TB burden to come back to pre-lockdown levels. The more severe the lockdown, the more severe the long-term impact.”

India has the world’s highest number of TB cases, with almost 2.8 million cases annually, and it accounts for more than a quarter of the global cases. TB  kills more than 435,000 Indians annually.

In 2017, India had 21.4 lakh people living with HIV. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation, more than 8.75 lakh new patients were added to the existing pool in 2017.

An estimated 67.73 lakh malaria cases were reported in 2018 in India.

Also read: Why antibiotic resistance is a health crisis, and how WHO is tackling it globally


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