Due to COVID-19 people living with HIV around the world, including the Middle East and North Africa region, are encountering difficulties to access HIV treatment, especially when they are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country due to travel restrictions.
“I came to Egypt on 1 March on a business trip and my plan was to leave on 4 April. Due to the COVID-19 and the closing of the airports, I had to extend my stay in Egypt. Unfortunately, my medication is not available in Egypt,” said Hammad.
To overcome this challenge, UNAIDS has been coordinating efforts with governments, partners and civil society organizations to ensure everyone in need of HIV treatment could have access to it by linking people with local networks and mobilizing government officials in the Middle East and North Africa region.
In the case of Hammad, UNAIDS and WHO together with the Network of people living with HIV in Lebanon, coordinated the delivery of three-month stock of HIV treatment. “I’m really thankful for all the humanitarian parties who helped me during this crisis, I couldn’t have done anything otherwise,” said Hammad.
In Jordan, UNAIDS coordinated with its partner Forearms of Change to provide HIV treatment to two transgender women stuck in the country. “Due to the global situation of the coronavirus, I was stranded in Jordan and my pills ran out! But UNAIDS linked me and my friend with Forearms of Change and this amazing organization supporting people living with HIV helped solve this vital issue! I am very grateful to everyone who has given me tremendous help!” said Kasia.
“We are really happy to know that we managed to give support and happiness to these two women who were very frightened when we saw them because they were stranded in Amman due to the lockdown. Providing them with the needed medicine without any questions was the only thing that managed to put a smile back on their faces,” said Abdalla Hanatleh, Director of Forearms of Change in Jordan.
Supporting people living with HIV stuck in countries with strict travel restrictions remains a constant challenge.
“We are committed to continue ensuring that people living with HIV get the services they need,” said Rangaiyan Gurumurthy, acting UNAIDS Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa region. “We would not have been able to do all this, if it weren’t for the successful partnerships with governments and other partners and the commitment of civil society organizations in the region.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, UNAIDS has helped stranded people to obtain HIV medicine in countries as diverse as Canada, China, Latvia, Myanmar, Ukraine, Egypt, Kuwait and Jordan.