Although the HIV and SARS-CoV-2 pandemics differ in many ways, they also share important characteristics: both emerge as a poorly understood disease with limited treatment and prevention options, both are characterised by rapid global spread, both have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable people, and both have caused profound stress on health, social and economic support systems. From the outset, the HIV response has been an unprecedented global mobilisation that has succeeded in reversing a pandemic that has claimed more than 32 million lives, generating structures, tools and resources that can now be used to respond to the new SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. If we are able to incorporate the lessons learned in the fight against HIV into the global response to COVID-19, we can achieve more effective, rapid and sustained learning, avoid mistakes and reduce the negative impact on public health.

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