Apple has released an exclusive feature on its support for Zambia’s health crisis: AIDS and COVID-19. This year, along with life-saving antiretrovirals, Apple sent face masks and face shields to rural health facilities in Mwembeshi. The country is battling AIDS/HIV for over 20 years and now with the help of the Global Fund, AIDS-related deaths have declined by 70% and the infection rate has been reduced by half. However, the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has made the work a little difficult as HIV-positive patients are reportedly avoiding hospitals or clinics.
The head of Advocacy, Planning, and Development with the Churches Health Association of Zambia, Yoram Siame said that,
“People are now afraid to go to health facilities. This is a very big issue for people living with HIV because when you talk about COVID-19, it disproportionately kills people with preexisting conditions. So how do you ensure that people on lifelong treatment are supported? At the same time, how do they come to a health facility with an assurance that they are safe? So it’s a bit of a difficult balancing act.”
Thankful for Apple PPE, the owner of Mwembeshi Rural Health Centre, Prosperina Mwanza said that,
“This provision of PPE will go a long way in cutting the transmission of infections. The biggest challenge right now is that people stopped coming for follow-ups because they felt they would interact with people that had COVID-19.”
“The PPE is very important because physically it helps protect workers and mentally it helps us do our jobs freely,” said Samson Tembo, a retired military officer working as the HIV program coordinator for the past two years.
Apple Sent PPE to Zambia to battle COVID-19 and HIV
Apple is part of the Global Funds Program which resolves to provide life-saving medication for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to impoverished parts of the world. In 2006, Apple began the RED campaign in which the proceedings from Product Red devices’ sales go to Global Fund and this year, the proceedings are also directed towards Response Mechanism to fight COVID-19 pandemic. The company writes,
“This year, COVID-19 drastically changed the landscape of healthcare, and the Global Fund, which coordinates these shipments to help fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, had to react quickly to respond to this second pandemic. It established the COVID-19 Response Mechanism, which is adapting existing Global Fund programs so that people receiving lifesaving treatments, including lifelong antiretroviral therapy, can continue to do so safely.
As a result of those sales, Apple and its customers have raised almost $250 million toward the Global Fund’s efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. As COVID-19 spread across the world, Apple redirected (PRODUCT)RED proceeds toward the Response Mechanism and will continue to do so until June 30, 2021. Apple also donated millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Ministry of Health in Zambia. That includes both surgical face masks Apple sourced from its supply chain as well as face shields designed and produced by Apple.”
On December 1, the world celebrates AIDS day for global awareness on the illness, transmission, and treatment. The African continent has been fighting the AIDS pandemic for decades now, and the health clinics in the region are grateful for Global Fund to continue the fight despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Siame further added that,
“The Global Fund has been a game changer. We were able to repurpose some of the money for personal protective gear for health workers, we ramped up our [COVID-19] testing capacity, and we were able to respond at a community level to make people understand what COVID-19 meant for them and their families.
“In 10 years, I have no doubt that AIDS will become an issue in the history books, as long as we keep the lid on issues of misinformation. With disrupters like COVID-19, we know that we will still have to do a lot of work to ensure that we get to that point. But I think COVID-19 has been proof of the [Global Fund’s] capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.”