BMJ Glob Health. 2023 Sep;8(9):e013703. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2023-013703.
OBJECTIVES: Assess the relationship between income inequality and HIV incidence, AIDS mortality and COVID-19 mortality.
DESIGN: Multicountry observational study.
SETTING: 217 countries for HIV/AIDS analysis, 151 countries for COVID-19 analysis.
PARTICIPANTS: Used three samples of national-level data: a sample of all countries with available data (global sample), a subsample of African countries (African sample) and a subsample excluding African countries (excluding African sample).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: HIV incidence rate per 1000 people, AIDS mortality rate per 100 000 people and COVID-19 excess mortality rate per 100 000 people. The Gini index of income inequality was the primary explanatory variable.
RESULTS: A positive and significant relationship exists between the Gini index of income inequality and HIV incidence across all three samples (p<0.01), with the effect of income inequality on HIV incidence being higher in the African sample than in the rest of the world. Also, a statistically positive association exists for all samples between income inequality and the AIDS mortality rate, as higher income inequality increases AIDS mortality (p<0.01). For COVID-19 excess mortality rate, a positive and statistically significant relationship exists with the Gini index for the entire sample and the excluding African sample (p<0.05), but the African sample alone did not deliver significant results (p<0.1).
CONCLUSION: COVID-19 excess deaths, HIV incidence and AIDS mortality are significantly associated with income inequality globally-more unequal countries have a higher HIV incidence, AIDS mortality and COVID-19 excess deaths than their more equal counterparts. Income inequality undercuts effective pandemic response. There is an urgent need for concerted efforts to tackle income inequality and to build pandemic preparedness and responses that are adapted and responsive to highly unequal societies, prioritising income inequality among other social determinants of health.