By Susan Brink for NPR
Anton Basenko is worried. He fears all the hard-won progress made in fighting the AIDS epidemic is on a collision course with the urgent needs of the coronavirus pandemic.
"For people with HIV, it's double, triple the crisis since the start of the lockdown," says the Ukrainian AIDS advocate. "I have a bad feeling that organizations and governments are so concentrated on COVID that they are completely forgetting about HIV. For marginalized people, it's a question of life and death."
Basenko is no stranger to health crises. After years of injection drug use, he contracted HIV (which he now lives with) and hepatitis C (which he's now cured). He started opioid substitution therapy in 2004.
Today, he works for the Alliance for Public Health in Ukraine as a coordinator for harm reduction programs that help IV drug users get clean needles or safer alternative drugs like methadone.
On July 10, he led a session at the 23rd (virtual) International AIDS Conference on the impact of COVID-19 on AIDS.
Suddenly, he and other AIDS advocates, researchers, doctors and patients have a 40-year-old epidemic and a brand new pandemic to worry about. "The concern is that AIDS is already being set back by COVID-19," says Dr. Monica Gandhi, director of the University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Research.