Some 430,000 HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa may have died over the past six months owing to interruptions in treatment due to COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a report on Wednesday.

Citing statistics from UNAIDS, Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) said the rise in deaths of HIV/AIDS patients was due to a decline in antiretroviral therapy during the virus lockdown, Nigeria’s This Day newspaper reported.

At a news conference in the capital Abuja, Gambo Gumel Aliyu, the head of NACA, said there are currently 1.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

He said $2.4 billion are needed to achieve the UN’s epidemic control target in the next three years.

According to the official, some 25% to 30% of COVID-19 tests in Nigeria were conducted in HIV mega laboratories, with the HIV sample transfer mechanism also utilized in four states.

“Over 15,000 HIV community volunteers from HIV stakeholders are supporting contact tracing, social mobilization, and the fight against stigma and discrimination,” the report quoted Aliyu as saying.

In 2018, an estimated 470,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS warned that a six-month disruption in antiretroviral therapy could lead to more than 500,000 extra deaths in the region from AIDS-related illnesses.

The global agencies urged countries to take action to mitigate treatment interruptions, saying that failure to do so could raise AIDS-related deaths up to the level seen in 2008, when more than 950,000 died in the region.

In a joint statement in May, WHO and UNAIDS said the disruption would continue to cause deaths for at least another five years, with an annual average excess in deaths of 40% over the next half a decade.

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