ARTICLE

When pandemics collide

Making strides in the fight against AIDS and COVID-19

Globally, 38 million people live with HIV.1

Another 36 million have died from this virus and AIDS-related illnesses since it was first identified in 1984, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.1

While strides have been made in controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has set the world back, straining healthcare systems and the patients they serve.

“The COVID-19 pandemic not only continues to have a devastating impact globally, it is wiping out painstaking progress made in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases,” says Dianne Young, who leads the Roche Global Access Program. “The pandemic has been especially challenging in countries with the highest burden of people living with HIV and AIDS.”

GAP Take Aim Stop Disease

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • HIV testing has fallen 41 percent2
  • Tuberculosis (TB) referrals have declined 59 percent2
  • HIV and TB elimination programs are set back from 5 to 12 years2
Addressing access challenges in resource-limited settings is key to advancing the goal of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS of an AIDS-free generation by 2030. Roche is also collaborating with local and international partners including (RED) to support communities most at risk for pandemics.
 
“We know we cannot win the fight against one pandemic without combatting the other,” says Joni Zurawinski, who directs access and partnerships in lower- and middle-income countries for Roche in the EMEA-LATAM region. “As a global community we need to concentrate resources around prevention of transmission, early detection through screening programs and prompt referral to treatments.”
 
WHO
Reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS
Since entering diagnostics in 1968, Roche has had a strong focus on infectious diseases. Since the identification of HIV in the 1980s, Roche has developed diagnostic tests for HIV, particularly molecular-based tests for early diagnosis of infants born to HIV positive mothers, along with tests to measure viral load levels to monitor treatment response.
 
Roche’s Global Access Program launched in 2014 to expand access to these diagnostic solutions in low-resource countries to reduce the widespread burden of HIV/AIDS where the need is high. Since then it has expanded to include tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C and human papillomavirus testing, and most recently COVID-19. HIV weakens the immune system, which increases the risk and mortality of these other diseases in people with HIV.
 
Much work remains in the fight against AIDS and other infectious diseases.

“The end of AIDS will depend on us all working together as a global community to develop sustainable solutions to tackle the multiple challenges in access to quality care,” says Cindy Perettie, Head of Roche Molecular Diagnostics. “It will take all of our combined  innovation and commitment to manage and eventually eradicate AIDS.”