Introduction: COVID-19 stretched healthcare systems to their limits, particularly in settings with a pre-existing high burden of infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis (TB). We studied the impact of COVID-19 on TB services at antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinics in low- and middle-income countries. Methods: We surveyed ART clinics providing TB services in the International Epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) consortium in Africa and the Asia-Pacific until July 2021 (TB diagnoses until the end of 2021). We collected site-level data using standardized questionnaires. Results: Of 46 participating ART clinics, 32 (70%) were in Africa and 14 (30%) in the Asia-Pacific; 52% provided tertiary care. Most clinics (85%) reported disrupted routine HIV care services during the pandemic, both in Africa (84%) and the Asia-Pacific (86%). The most frequently reported impacts were on staff (52%) and resource shortages (37%; protective clothing, face masks and disinfectants). Restrictions in TB health services were observed in 12 clinics (26%), mainly reduced access to TB diagnosis and postponed follow-up visits (6/12, 50% each), and restrictions in TB laboratory services (22%). Restrictions of TB services were addressed by dispensing TB drugs for longer periods than usual (7/12, 58%), providing telehealth services (3/12, 25%) and with changes in directly observed therapy (DOT) (e.g. virtual DOT, 3/12). The number of TB diagnoses at participating clinics decreased by 21% in 2020 compared to 2019; the decline was more pronounced in tertiary than primary/secondary clinics (24% vs. 12%) and in sites from the Asia-Pacific compared to Africa (46% vs. 14%). In 2021, TB diagnoses continued to decline in Africa (–8%) but not in the Asia-Pacific (+62%) compared to 2020. During the pandemic, new infection control measures were introduced or intensified at the clinics, including wearing face masks, hand sanitation and patient triage. Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic led to staff shortages, reduced access to TB care and delays in follow-up visits for people with TB across IeDEA sites in Africa and the Asia-Pacific. Increased efforts are needed to restore and secure ongoing access to essential TB services in these contexts.
- HIV clinic
- antiretroviral therapy
- differentiated service delivery
- low- and middle-income countries
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases