COVID-19 has had considerable global impact; however, in sub-Saharan Africa, it is one of several infectious disease priorities. Prioritization is normally guided by disease burden, but the highly age-dependent nature of COVID-19 and that of other infectious diseases make comparisons challenging unless considered through metrics that incorporate life-years lost and time lived with adverse health. Therefore, we compared the 2020 mortality and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost estimates for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African populations with more than 12 months of COVID-19 burden (until the end of March 2021) by applying known age-related mortality to United Nations estimates of the age structure. We further compared exacerbations of disease burden predicted from the COVID-19 public health response. Data were derived from public sources and predicted exacerbations were derived from those published by international agencies. For sub-Saharan African populations north of South Africa, the estimated recorded COVID-19 DALYs lost in 2020 were 3.7%, 2.3%, and 2.4% for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, respectively. Predicted exacerbations of these diseases were greater than the estimated COVID-19 burden. Including South Africa and Lesotho, COVID-19 DALYs lost were < 12% of those for other compared diseases; furthermore, the mortality of compared diseases were dominated in all age groups younger than 65 years. This analysis suggests the relatively low impact of COVID-19. Although all four epidemics continue, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria remain far greater health priorities based on their disease burdens. Therefore, resource diversion to COVID-19 poses a high risk of increasing the overall disease burden and causing net harm, thereby further increasing global inequities in health and life expectancy.
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Authors’ addresses:David Bell, Independent Consultant, Issaquah, WA, E-mail: email@example.com. Kristian Schultz Hansen, Department of Public Health and Centre for Health Economics and Policy, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, and The National Research Center of Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.