The NAC was responding to the HIV and AIDS Committee’s concern that the pandemic might have posed a significant threat for people living with HIV in the country through disrupting their access to health services in various ways.
The Committee therefore invited the National AIDS Commission (NAC) to brief it on how the pandemic has impacted on the HIV treatment programmes.
The briefing was held on October 15.
In response, NAC submitted that HIV testing never stopped at local health facilities although it was compromised by the national lockdown and the industrial action by health workers.
The commission further showed that testing through outreaches was also affected by the lockdowns and eventually came to a halt.
However, self-testing kits were distributed though the demand was higher.
NAC showed that HIV treatment was slightly affected as only 63 out of 326 health facilities countrywide were affected by the health workers’ strike.
The launching of the multi-month dispensing strategy, the NAC said was of great benefit as people living with HIV were given between three and six-month supply of ARVs at one visit; thereby avoiding long queues which would compromise social distancing.
The main challenge encounter, the commission showed was with people working in South Africa as there was a delay in information dissemination with regard to where they would get their ARV supply during the COVID-19 lockdown. NAC further stated that Antenatal care was only affected in April during the first lockdown but picked up in May; the same trend was observed for pregnant women at Antenatal Care units. The commission however, indicated that there were no clear trends of COVID-19 impact on early infant testing.
On the issue of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, NAC said it is yet to compile a comprehensive statistical report from the Ministries of Police and Health in order to properly quantify the cases.
“However, there was a notable increase of gender-based violence as well as sexual and child abuse cases during lockdown; this report will enable us to make a follow-up on the new HIV infections if there are any,” the commission showed in a report.
NAC also highlighted that it participated in various COVID-19 programmes in order to capacitate its staff; however the main challenge was resources, both financial and human.