Your Covid-19 questions answered
Are people living with HIV at greater risk of catching Covid-19?
While studies are conflicted, the WHO has urged those with HIV to sanitise frequently, wear a mask, social distance and stock up on ARVs
The World Health Organisation says people living with HIV who are not taking antiretrovirals and have a low CD4 cell count, particularly those with advanced HIV disease, are at increased risk of Covid-19 infection and Aids-related complications.
“People living with HIV can have a greater prevalence of the known risk factors for Covid-19 acquisition and complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease, obesity, as well as, other comorbidities and co-infections, like tuberculosis,” it said.
However, it cautioned that studies are ongoing and acknowledged that there is “evolving and conflicting evidence” whether people living with HIV have an increased risk of catching Covid-19 when compared with the general population.
It said several case studies have shown the chance of getting Covid-19 if you are on antiretrovirals and have a higher CD4 cell count is similar to anyone else in the population.
“These limited clinical data suggest the mortality risk in people living with HIV is associated with known Covid-19 factors, such as older age and presence of comorbidities including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and obesity.”
Other studies from SA, the US and UK have reported a “moderate increased risk of death directly attributed to HIV infection after adjustments for age, sex, ethnicity and presence of comorbidities”.
“Protecting people living with HIV during the Covid-19 pandemic, and ensuring they can maintain treatment, is critical,” the organisation said.
“Researchers are currently investigating whether people with HIV have an increased risk of poor outcomes with Covid-19. Preliminary evidence of moderate increased vulnerability of people with HIV makes it even more urgent that people with HIV have access to ARVs and treatments for comorbidities — such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes and tuberculosis — and maintenance of a healthy body weight.”
It advised that the normal safety protocols of washing and sanitising your hands frequently, wearing a mask and social distancing should be observed. Seek medical care if symptomatic and self-isolate if you develop symptoms or have contact with a positive Covid-19 case.
It added that people living with HIV should have access to a three to six-month supply of ARVs and that programmes regularly dispense these and other crucial medicines to those in need.
“It is also important to ensure that influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are up to date and there is access to adequate supplies of medicines to treat or prevent co-infections and comorbidities.”
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.