Coronavirus risks wiping years of health gains in Americas - WHO director

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SAO PAULO The new coronavirus is interrupting vaccination programs and frontline care for other diseases which risked wiping out years of health progress in the Americas, the World Health Organization’s regional director said on Tuesday.

The official, Carissa Etienne, said at a weekly press briefing that the pandemic was reducing frontline care for chronic conditions such as diabetes and infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.

“These services are severely disrupted or, worse yet, halted entirely,” she said. “The Americas are at risk of losing years of health gains in a matter of months.”

Supply of drugs is also a worsening problem, Etienne said. Eleven countries within the Americas have less than three months supply of antiretrovirals for HIV and others are running short of tuberculosis medication, she said.

Etienne urged governments to increase spending on health to at least 6% of gross domestic product (GDP), saying the current average of 3.7% was not enough.

“Countries must adapt and commit to simultaneously providing these essential primary care services while at the same time mitigating the effects of COVID-19,” she said. “This is not an either or choice.”

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