What are the Risks of COVID-19 for HIV Patients?

There are nearly 1.1 million American citizens living with HIV and 14% of them don’t even know about it. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that HIV is the leading cause of AIDS for people who are over 50. It damages all the natural functions of the body and interferes with immunity, increasing the risk of certain infections. Considering the widespread of coronavirus pandemic, it is easy to guess that HIV patients are at high risk for COVID-19.

Dr. Stacey Rizza from Mayo Clinic, says that

“We know that anybody who has a suppressed immune system may have an altered response to the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that older people whose immune systems are a little weaker, and people who have medical issues or organ diseases, are going to generally do worse with the infection. If somebody has HIV and their immune system is weaker, meaning they’re not on therapy, or they’re earlier on in their therapy and their CD4 count is still low, they may be at risk of having a worse reaction to the virus. We will learn more about SARS-CoV-2 on people living with HIV over time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells that the risk of getting infections including coronavirus is highest in HIV patients that have a low CD4 cell count. Dr. Rizza tells that any person who is under therapy for HIV, despite having a good immunity, he is at risk. Therefore, everyone who has been diagnosed with HIV or currently under therapy for HIV should immediately get medical help during this pandemic.

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Dr. Rizza further explains that general recommendations for testing, diagnosing and monitoring for all patients almost the same for all risk groups even for HIV patients. She says;

 “We ask that anybody on the planet who has symptoms at this time consistent with COVID-19 to contact their health care provider and see if they need to be tested. This really is a global pandemic, and the whole world is going through it almost at the same time together. No matter what your medical background is, if you have symptoms, you may need to be quarantined and you may need to be tested.” 

People who are currently under treatment with a moderate CD4 level and an almost undetectable viral load are considered healthy and their immune system is not considered “weak” as that off all HIV patients. The newly diagnosed patients should talk to their doctor about any concern or worry regarding immunity.

An undetectable viral load is not typically a problem but it is better to seek medical advice. People with other underlying medical conditions such as heart diseases and lung diseases should also pay attention to general recommendations to prevent coronavirus.

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As the coronavirus pandemic is spreading, government departments and independent medical and research centers are putting all their efforts to raise awareness regarding coronavirus spread. As to HIV patients, there are complete online guidelines published by The British HIV Association.

Some of the general tips for people living with HIV include the following.

  • Eat healthily and improve immunity.
  • Get plenty of rest and don’t feel distressed.
  • Avoid going to public places and touching any public property.
  • Do not meet people and avoid going to gatherings.
  • Follow social distancing during this lockdown.
  • Keep a stock of 30-day supply of HIV treatment medicines or any other medicines that one might need.
  • Discuss a self-care plan with your doctor or medical services provider.
  • Try getting telemedicine in case of an emergency.


Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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