COVID-19 and HIV

Coronavirus disease is caused by a new coronavirus. The main symptoms of this disease are breathing difficulties, fever, and cough. Other individuals infected with the virus develop severe pneumonia and need intensive care. In one study, they have found out that old age was by far the strongest risk factor. Other risk factors are those with chronic or underlying health conditions.

HIV or human immunodeficiency virus attacks cells that help the body fight infection. It makes the person more vulnerable to other diseases and infections. It spreads by having contact with the body fluids of a person infected. Most commonly it is spread through unprotected sex or through sharing medication equipment. HIV is similar to how the COVID-19 spreads. COVID-19 spreads through the respiratory droplets of an infected person with or without showing any symptoms.

Are People Living With HIV At Higher Risk Of COVID-19?

Various have shown that people living with HIV have a raised risk of dying from COVID-19. In the United Kingdom, two large studies have found that people with HIV had between 63 and 130% higher risk of dying of the infection. The two studies showed that co-morbidities like high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, and obesity were important risk factors in people with HIV. This study also found out that the risk of death in people with HIV compared to the rest of the population was higher in people under 60. However, people with HIV were in the hospital and those most likely to die were older people.

Which People With HIV Are At Higher Risk Of COVID-19?

Early studies show that risk factors for COVID-19 are the same in people with HIV compared to the rest of the population. People living with HIV with low CD4 cell counts were more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19. Other studies have also found out that a low count of CD4 increases the risk of severe illness.

Advice For People Living With HIV

  • People with a CD4 count over 200 who have an undetectable viral load and are taking HIV treatment are considered at no greater risk than the overall population. They must follow the general advice to practice social distancing and to stay at home.
  • People with a CD4 count below 200 or who have an undetectable viral load and are not taking HIV treatment may be at higher risk of severe illness. However, they must still follow the health protocol given by local authorities.
  • People with a very low CD4 count below 50 or who have had an opportunistic illness in the last 6 months must follow shielding advice. Some shielding advice may include working from home wherever possible, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands more than usual.

If You Are At The Hospital With HIV And COVID-19

It is recommended to tell your healthcare team who is looking after you that you are living HIV. It is to let them do tests to rule out other lung infections that may happen in people with HIV. Have a list of HIV medications you are taking so that can be prescribed to you as soon as possible if you are admitted. The counts of CD4 cells fall during COVID-19, so doctors must remember to give opportunistic infection prophylaxis if the CD4 cell count falls below 200.