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WHO Acknowledges HIV as a Risk Factor For Covid-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently added HIV as a risk factor for severe Covid-19 infection after a significant number of deaths reported from different hospitals. According to these stats, people living with HIV, the virus that initiates AIDS in people were admitted to the hospitals reporting severe Covid-19 symptoms.

Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV attacks the immune system of the body and if not controlled, it causes an infection called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Every year it kills around 1 million people and more than 37 million are currently living with this virus in their bodies. Now that the whole world is going through a pandemic, having any virus or disease naturally makes a person a high-risk target for covid-19 that is also true for HIV patients.

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From the start of the pandemic, more than 45 million HIV patients have lost their lives that clearly reveals the severity of this co-infection. The previous studies did not provide much about HIV and increased risks of Covid-19 considering many HIV patients also experience additional complications i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, obesity etc.

For this study, the research team used the data obtained from 15,500 HIV patients who were diagnosed with Covid-19 during the last one and half years. On average, these patients were in late-middle ages (45.5 years old) and more than 1/3rd of them experienced severe Covid-19 symptoms.

More than 90% of these patients were provided with anti-retroviral therapy before they were hospitalized. Out of the total patient number, on which this study was based, some 23% lost their lives during the hospitalization.

Among patients for whom an outcome was recorded, 23 per cent died in hospital. These study results were presented at the International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference in its 11th annual session. The study authors stated that these results clearly show that HIV itself is an independent risk factor for severe Covid-19 symptoms leading to hospital admission and death.

The president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), Adeeba Kamarulzaman called these results significant as they may help to make relevant changes in the vaccination programs, giving a priority to the HIV patients. She further added that the international community should help to make sure all areas with high HIV prevalence are receiving sufficient vaccine supply.

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As of now, below 3% population in the whole of Africa has received the Covid-19 vaccine, a large majority of which has received a single dose only. There are only 1.5% of people who have completed both doses.

The UNAIDS program of the United Nations announced that the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the HIV diagnostic services and treatment facilities. During the lockdown period, the testing facility was reduced up to 50% in many areas in South Africa mainly because thousands of the healthcare staff were shifted to handle Covid-19 patients and screening tests.

On one side, the established countries are sharing their re-opening plans, summer trips and policies to return back to normal, as they have easy access to Covid-19 vaccines. On the other side, underdeveloped countries are battling with two crises, one is Covid-19 and the other is HIV because the screening tests, medicines and vaccines are still not available. These inequalities may lead to a high mortality rate caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is unacceptable and should be handled says WHO.

 

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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