As the COVID-19 worldwide death toll breaks 250,000, it obscures the even larger number of lives claimed by another virus: HIV. Since the beginning of the year, over 500,000 people have died from HIV/AIDS.
One thing the two viruses have in common is that there is no cure for either. However, we do have the medicines to keep people with HIV healthy — HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not neglect the needs of vulnerable populations, the children and families affected by HIV. As COVID-19 restricts access to health services everywhere, families living with HIV are put in an extremely difficult position. Supplies of lifesaving anti-retroviral medicines are interrupted. Budgets that met the needs of HIV+ families are decimated by the economic depression the epidemic is creating. Caregivers are desperately trying to support the physical and psychological needs of those affected by HIV while adhering to the rules of social distancing and keeping their loved ones safe.
The needs of vulnerable populations, such as people and families with HIV, do not disappear when other health problems arise. In fact, they become more difficult to resolve. Our societies and health systems must respond to these increased needs with increased care, not with neglect. It is our human obligation to provide Health for All!
Hesperian creates materials that support health for individuals, families, and caregivers where conditions are not ideal. Our health guide, Helping Children Live with HIV, is full of practical advice and illustrated stories to help families and communities support children’s well-being and healthy development. The book’s holistic approach provides ways to heal a family’s experience of the physical and emotional trauma caused by the disease, by lack of resources, and by social stigma. It is a tool to fight neglect.
As we all take action during this global crisis, we encourage you to advocate for those whose needs are not included in the focus on COVID-19. The health of children and families with HIV should not be further jeopardized by this pandemic. Spread the word about Helping Children Live with HIV so we can get this resource to families and communities in low-resource settings. Let’s look out for one another and stop the spread of neglect.