COVID-19 is having a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable communities around the world and is threatening decades of progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. The Global Fund works with partners, countries and communities to fight COVID-19, adapt lifesaving HIV, TB and malaria programs, and reinforce fragile systems for health.
The stories that follow provide insight into how the Global Fund’s response is having an impact in countries, and how people and communities are responding with resilience and courage to the challenges they are facing during the pandemic.
When COVID-19 arrived and countries went into lockdown, this not only posed a threat to people’s health, but also to their human rights. Occurrences of gender-based violence (GBV) – where a person is attacked based on their gender or gender identity – and intimate partner violence by a spouse or domestic partner increased.
Dr. Zolelwa Sifumba is a health worker, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) survivor, Global Fund advocate and global health activist in South Africa, and Community Representative in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT-) Accelerator.
For two months in early 2021, Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe – the largest stadium in Malawi – was not a place for football. Instead, a devastating second wave of COVID-19 had overwhelmed hospitals and turned the stadium into a temporary field hospital to accommodate the flood of patients.
When the Philippines first went into COVID-19 lockdown last year, the Department of Health’s National TB Control Program (NTP) knew they had to act fast to ensure that TB patients were not cut off from accessing their lifesaving treatment.
When COVID-19 struck in Nigeria in 2020, the country went into lockdown. As the virus overwhelmed systems for health, many clinical facilities were swiftly turned into COVID-19 isolation centers, displacing the delivery of other lifesaving health services, including those for HIV, TB and malaria.
Eswatini may be a small country, but it has put up a mighty fight against HIV. It has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV in the world, but thanks to engaged political will and coordinated work with partnerships like the Global Fund, Eswatini has already reached the ‘95-95-95’ global HIV target set for 2030.
In June, large shipments of COVID-19 diagnostic tests procured by the Global Fund through our Pooled Procurement Mechanism arrived at the warehouse of a private sector company hired by the National Department of Health in South Africa, to be stored and distributed throughout the country.
It was the suddenness and the intensity of the second COVID-19 wave that took everyone in India by surprise. “None of us were prepared for this speed of development, this kind of rapidity with which it developed,” Dr. Bornali Datta explains over the phone.
As Head of Malaria at the Global Fund, Dr. Scott Filler ensures we invest in malaria interventions with the most impact around the world. For him the disease is personal. A mosquito bite while on a college trip in Kenya led to a life-threatening bout with malaria. He’s devoted his life to stamping out this preventable, treatable disease, which costs a child’s life every two minutes.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on the fight against tuberculosis worldwide, as many of the resources required to fight TB – labs, testing machines, health workers – have been diverted to fight COVID-19.
When a storm hits, it helps for your house to have a strong foundation. The Global Fund has been investing in strengthening systems for health over the last two decades, because without a good foundation, we cannot end diseases.
Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the last few decades. But the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the region hard, and its indirect effects could allow infectious diseases to resurge.
When COVID-19 arrived in Guatemala, the community health center where Bryanna and her fellow sex workers got tested for HIV closed its doors. “It was like the end of the world to many of us,” says the 25-year-old transgender woman. “We were afraid because we had to continue working and we had lost our support groups.”
For Rosemary Wanjiru, a community health volunteer in Nairobi’s Soweto Village, fighting TB in the time of COVID-19 has meant making impossible choices. She walks the narrow alleyways in her neighborhood, offering lifesaving treatment and education to people even though it puts her and her family at risk. Yet her passion for saving lives remains undimmed.
Both HIV and COVID-19 expose sharp inequities in society and barriers that the most marginalized communities face exercising their right to health care. But these seemingly insurmountable hurdles haven’t held Kiki back from working and advocating to protect the rights of people in her community. She is the founding president of Positive Vision Cameroon, an organization that works to protect the rights of transgender people, including their right to access health care such as HIV prevention and treatment services.
Like tens of millions of young people around the world, 17-year-old Melissa’s life was turned upside down when COVID-19 and its lockdown measures hit her community and shut down her school.
In this story, 24-year-old Grace Ngulube (wearing a green t-shirt in the image below), takes us through the intimate lives of adolescent girls and young women during school closures in Malawi.