2 pandemics coexist badly in the media. This is what happened on December 1, World AIDS Day: the coronavirus, the epidemic par excellence of this century, has stolen HIV from the limelight, as if it were already under control. But the data is stubborn. According to UNAIDS, in 2020 there was around 1.5 million new cases in the world and about 680,000 deaths from AIDS. On a day-to-day basis, however, both infections do not understand competitions, and coincide, especially in countries with fewer resources, with the result that people with uncontrolled HIV suffer a more serious Covid19, with mortalities that double those of the general population, based on studies conducted in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
40 years of HIV: the epidemic of death and life
Both pandemics also share a well-known characteristic: with rich countries already equipped, be it antiretrovirals for HIV or vaccines against Covid19, the burden of the disease remains for others. Still, 40 years after the first AIDS cases, and 25 since highly effective therapy that turns HIV infection into a chronic condition was discovered, nearly 25% of the 37.7 million people living with the virus in the world does not have access to medication. That is not to say that HIV is not a problem in rich countries. Not only because infections go down very slowly, but also because we have to face the challenge of caring for the survivors of the first waves, who are older and in many cases with serious social and health problems (unemployment, low pensions). The NGOs in the sector defend that, although people with HIV are already diagnosed and receive treatment that prevents the infection from progressing, they still need to achieve the fourth pillar, quality of life.
This year, the coronavirus has hidden its claims. But when Covid19 is a recurrent infection that needs to be vaccinated periodically, HIV will continue to demand care that its victims will continue to need.