World Health Organization (WHO) experts have travelled to China where they will now work together with their Chinese counterparts to prepare scientific plans in an attempt to identify the source of COVID-19.
The experts will develop the scope and terms of reference for a WHO-led international mission.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Tuesday that the mission objective is to better understand animal hosts of COVID-19 and determine how the disease jumped between animals and humans.
COVID-19 affects access to HIV treatment
With the 23rd International AIDS Conference taking place virtually this week, Ghebreyesus expressed deep concern about the impact of COVID-19 on HIV treatment.
A new WHO survey showed access to HIV medicines has been significantly curtailed because of the pandemic, with 73 countries reporting that they are at risk of running out of stock of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs).
To alleviate the impact of the pandemic on treatment access, WHO recommended that all countries prescribe ARVs for up to six months while supply chains for all medicines are fully functioning.
“Similarly, shortages of condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis can prove costly and WHO calls for countries to ensure uninterrupted prevention, testing and treatment services for HIV,” said Ghebreyesus.
The disruptions in access to life-saving supplies and services come at a critical moment as progress in the global response to HIV comes to a standstill.
Over the last two years, the number of new HIV infections stabilised at 1.7 million annually but with only a modest reduction in AIDS-related deaths.
Although more than 25 million people now have access to ARVs, WHO said global targets for the prevention, testing and treatment of HIV are off-target.
“Progress is stalling because HIV prevention and testing services are not reaching the groups that need them most,” said Ghebreyesus.
Going forward, WHO urged countries to expand access to services for vulnerable groups through stronger community engagement, improved service delivery and tackling stigma and discrimination.
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