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Covid-19 and gender in LMICs: potential lessons from HIV pandemic

The Novel Coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome is a public health concern that has resulted in over 4.6 million cases globally, with more than 311,000 deaths as of May 2020 [1]. The impact of COVID-19 on low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) is still unknown but could be catastrophic [2]. Already crippled by weak economies and a history of HIV, COVID-19 could be a devastating blow to the fragile healthcare systems of these countries. Kenya, for example, is a country with a population of 50 million people and only 200 intensive care (ICU) beds countrywide [1]. In comparison, the United States (US), with 34 ICU beds for every 100,000 people, has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 [1].

We highlight the strain that the outbreak could impose on LMICs, which are already burdened by a 30-year history of fighting HIV/AIDS. Approximately 38 million people are currently living with HIV globally [3]; 70% of these people live in the SSA region [4]. COVID-19 has impacted all continents, with over 90% of deaths occurring in the wealthiest countries [5]; however, a disturbing trend observed in the US is that the poor and minority populations are disproportionately impacted [2]. Similar trends were observed in the HIV transmissions over the years [6]. Without enough kits and proper surveillance networks to trace and quarantine infected people, many LMICs will struggle to contain this pandemic. We outline four ways that COVID-19 may be devastating for SSA, which has borne the brunt of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. Drawing from the current literature, we suggest solutions in COVID-19 mitigations for LMICs.

Eusebius Small, Bonita B. Sharma, Silviya Pavlova Nikolova. (2020). Covid-19 and Gender in LMICs: Potential Lessons from HIV Pandemic. AIDS and Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-020-02932-z

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