'Many people are feeling this': New report says pandemic reversed HIV progress

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, October 7, 2022
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A new report called Invisible People says advances from the pandemic caused setbacks in the fight against HIV.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- John Rowell admits nothing could have prepared him for the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the two years, he's had access to HIV testing and PrEP because he worked as an outreach specialist for a Triangle-based organization focused on HIV preventative care.

"As a Black, queer man, majority of my people are feeling this," said Rowell. "From March to April, we started going back in little by little in May. By that point, two months have gone by, no telling how many people have had more than two sexual partners."

A new report called Invisible People, by the LGBTQ advocacy organization, GLAAD, says advances from the pandemic caused setbacks in the fight against HIV.

It included elements like HIV testing dropped up to 97 percent at the peak of the pandemic, fewer people were diagnosed in 2020 compared to 2019 and there's also been data showing a major decrease of people starting PrEP, a preventative medication that reduces your chances of contracting HIV.

"This is absolutely not surprising. All the things all got re-allocated for COVID-19. In the moment, it made complete sense. I knew this wasn't going to come without consequence," said Christina Adeleke with North Carolina, AIDS Action Network.

According to Adeleke, the pandemic put a dent in the efforts and as a result she says more people will be diagnosed with HIV.

"This year and the next couple years until things readjust," she said.

Meanwhile, Rowell, a UNC Chapel Hill graduate student majoring in Public Health has a suggestion on how to move forward with the fight against HIV.

"Making sure there's a big enough resource hub that can be accessed for everyone," said Rowell. "Everyone should have access to these resources to keep themselves and partners safe."