Flexibility and agility
Organisations have been very flexible and innovative in the way they work. For some, meetings have been conducted using easily recognised platforms such as WhatsApp but they noted that whilst online services worked well for those who had access to them (support groups, psychological support and consultations), they are no substitute for face-to-face interaction. For others, online services were limited as they did not have the right technology or devices to support access.
Many organisations used the Community Emergency Response Fund to fill in gaps in care caused by the impact of COVID-19. In many countries, the fund was a critical link for people living with HIV to access health facilities.
For people living with HIV, the burden of anxiety was elevated during the pandemic due to fear of missed appointments for refills. Organisations that were able to offer specialists services, such as a door-to-door medicine delivery service, reinforces the importance of supporting these types of critical initiatives.
The power in partnerships to ensure continuity of services
Partnerships were essential to ensure continuity of services. By collaborating with national health systems and other partners community-based organisations, have been able to strengthen relationships and increase HIV testing rates, highlighting the benefit of on-the-ground groups to implement services and ensure support for those who need it.
The experiences shared by these organisations showed that the challenges and barriers to care are nothing new, especially in the case of key and priority populations. The pandemic just amplified the structural barriers that currently impact HIV communities. At ViiV Healthcare we remain committed to our mission of leaving no person living with HIV behind and will continue to work tirelessly to support the underserved communities living with or affected by HIV to help build a more equitable and healthier world.
Read more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated existing health disparities in both the US and UK in a recently released report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) sponsored by ViiV Healthcare: Achieving health equity: a roadmap to eliminating disparities.