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Survey finds long-term access to HIV medicines a major concern for people living with HIV

November 30, 2020 by PATH

Insights into the extent of disruptions highlights the need for continuity planning to mitigate future potential disruptions

Hanoi, Vietnam, November 30, 2020 – A survey conducted by Gilead Sciences and global non-profit public health organization, PATH, found disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have raised concerns within the HIV community around continuity of access to HIV medications. Of those surveyed, about 90% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and 45% of individuals at-risk of HIV said that they were concerned about accessing anti-retroviral and preventive medications in the long-term due to the ongoing pandemic. In a country that has about 213,000 PLHIV and 11,000 new infections reported in 2019[1], disruptions to treatment and/or preventive care may lead to increased HIV infections.

Vietnam is one of the 10 countries and territories in Asia Pacific involved in the survey, which sought to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the access and delivery of HIV-related health services, including on testing, treatment, and prevention. A total of 1,265 respondents, including PLHIV, individuals at-risk, and HIV care prescribers, were surveyed from the region, of which 64 were from Vietnam*. An analysis into the survey responses provides additional insights into the disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic:

  • COVID-19 pandemic saw a major dip in frequency of visits to public health facilities by individuals at-risk. With many nations issuing directives on COVID-19 prevention and control, as well as implementing stringent social distancing measures, 80% of HIV care prescribers reported a decrease in visit frequency amongst individuals at-risk at public health clinics, and 60% of them reported a decrease in frequency or delay in visits among PLHIV.
  • COVID-19 pandemic had substantial impact on HIV testing, particularly for individuals at-risk. The survey results show that 42% of PLHIV and 43% of individuals at-risk reported a decrease in the frequency of HIV-related tests. PLHIV attributed it to doctors’ recommendation for less frequent testing (46%), concerns about getting COVID-19 at point-of-care (46%), travel restrictions (38%), and financial constraints (38%). Conversely, individuals at-risk cited travel restrictions (58%) and concerns about getting COVID-19 at point-of-care (58%) as the main reasons for less frequent testing.
  • Telehealth services have been adopted but have not been fully leveraged in HIV care yet. Of PLHIV and individuals at-risk surveyed, 64% said they have not utilized telehealth services. For respondents who had utilized telehealth, phone consultation was the most common medium (31%); video consultation (5%) and remote refilling of medications (7%) remained relatively low.

“What we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that even as the pandemic stabilizes over time, it is important for health systems to plan for potential disruptions in the future. Data from the survey shows that there are still areas that can be strengthened, and a multi-sector approach is required to ensure that we stay on track to end the HIV epidemic in Vietnam by 2030,” said Dr. Kimberly Green, Global Director for HIV and tuberculosis at PATH and Chief of Party of the USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project.

“Even as the pandemic stabilizes over time, it is important for health systems to plan for potential disruptions in the future”
— Dr. Kimberly Green, Global Director for HIV and tuberculosis at PATH

“Vietnam’s large geography means that contingencies for remote access needs to be considered, including where innovative solutions such as digital technologies or telemedicine can be deployed to increase coverage,” she said.

“This pulse survey shows that ensuring access to critical HIV care services is an important public health priority especially when an end in sight to the pandemic remains uncertain. Gilead is committed to collaborating with the HIV community from public health authorities to HIV care prescribers, patient groups and civil societies in Vietnam and across the region to identify strategies that can close the gaps to care delivery to ensure the continuity of vital HIV care services during these challenging times and beyond,” said Boon-Leong Neo, Senior Director, Medical Affairs, Asia Pacific, Gilead Sciences.

“This pulse survey shows that ensuring access to critical HIV care services is an important public health priority especially when an end in sight to the pandemic remains uncertain.”
— Boon-Leong Neo, Senior Director, Medical Affairs, Asia Pacific, Gilead

About the survey

The “Impact of COVID-19 on access and delivery of HIV care in Asia Pacific” was conducted online, from October to mid-November 2020, in 10 countries and territories in Asia Pacific (Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam) by Kantar Health, funded by Gilead Sciences with the provision of guidance and support from PATH. The survey was disseminated to local medical societies and HIV patient groups and care centers across Asia Pacific. 1,265 respondents comprising of 667 people living with HIV, 455 individuals at-risk, and 143 HIV care prescribers participated in the survey. The purpose of the survey was to assess the current status as well as gaps and barriers to accessing HIV care during COVID-19. The findings provide insights on the impact of COVID-19 to the disruptions of HIV care and inform ways in which health systems and HIV-affected communities can adapt strategies to maintain the provision of HIV care services and mitigate future disruptions.

About Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. The company strives to transform and simplify care for people with life-threatening illnesses around the world. Gilead has operations in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California. For more information on Gilead Sciences, please visit the company’s website at www.gilead.com.

About PATH

PATH is a global nonprofit dedicated to achieving health equity. With more than 40 years of experience forging multisector partnerships, and expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing health challenges. Visit path.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Gilead Sciences: Venus Tsang, +852 9310 9234

PATH: Tham Tran, +84 8 3881 0235

APCO Worldwide: Ha Ly, +84 9126 443 68

[1] Vietnam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control

Survey is funded by Gilead Sciences with guidance from PATH