The UN AIDS agency is warning that the coronavirus pandemic could jeopardize the supply of AIDS drugs in developing countries and could lead to deadly shortages in the next few months.
In a statement on Monday, UNAIDS said a survey it recently conducted found that lockdowns and border closures to stop the spread of COVID-19 were affecting both the production and distribution of the medicines, which could result in higher costs and shortages in the next two months.
As of June 2019, UNAIDS estimated that more than 24 million people were on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and that losing access now could risk their health and the further spread of HIV.
"I call on countries and buyers of HIV medicines to act swiftly in order to ensure everyone who is currently on treatment continues to be on it," Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement.
UNAIDS said the sharp reduction in air and sea transport was complicating the distribution of raw materials and that social distancing was reducing manufacturing capacity. This could lead to a shortage of medicines or price increases, with some of the treatment courses for children estimated to be those worst affected.
The UNAIDS analysis was based on information collected from eight generic manufacturers of AIDS drugs in India, who account for more than 80% of the generic anti-retroviral drug supply globally. Governments in seven other countries that produce generic AIDS medications were also surveyed.