National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS

NERCHA CONCERNED BY COVID-19 BUT HIV IS STILL A LIFE-THREATENING DISEASE

31 March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is major threat not just to the lives of emaSwati but also on the economy of the Kingdom of Eswatini.  As pronounced by His excellency the Prime Minister that all sectors must galvanize resources to fight the coronavirus, NERCHA has prioritized the lives and health of the staff and stringent majors have been put in place to ensure safety of staff and partners.  The organization is striving to ensure a safe and healthy working environment and has educated staff on COVID-19 as well put in place, a risk management plan.  

NERCHA National Executive Director Khanyakwezwe Mabuza notes that “As the HIV/AIDS national response, we have been engaging with technical lead agencies and the Ministry of Health (MoH) on the possible impact of COVID-19 on the response.  As much as there is no conclusive evidence on  the coronavirus and HIV impact, we are concerned about those who are HIV positive on ART and those who are HIV positive but  unaware of their sero status and those that are virally not suppressed”. 

Mabuza said NERCHA is working with MoH which has embarked on a campaign to test and treat.  He noted that access to health care for PLWHIV maybe be affected because of the burden of the coronavirus. “We need to ensure that we have sufficient drugs and laboratories are able to meet the demand,” he said. 

The NERCHA Director also stated that they were concerned with the ability of the health system to cope with the anticipated number of new cases of the coronavirus. “Our health human resources (HR) will not be able to cope with the demand.  There is need for mitigation strategies to be put in place so that we do not reverse the gains we have made in the HIV response”. He emphasized that need to propose innovative health delivery system that will decongest the facilities and minimize exposure to cross infections.

“Lastly, let us not remove our eyes from the ball.  HIV is still a life-threatening disease, we should ensure that are no new infections, everyone who is HIV positive is on treatment,” he added.