HIV Concerns in the Time of COVID-19

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Perhaps the last time in living memory anything similar to our current COVID-19 situation has happened was the HIV/AIDS outbreak that began in the 1980s. While there were the H1N1 and Ebola scares in the United States more recently, today’s pandemic can be especially concerning to those of us who live with HIV or AIDS because of the increased risk due to COVID-19. So, what exactly does the science say about COVID-19 and people with HIV?

What We Know

Since COVID-19 is a relatively new virus, we don’t know too much for sure about the extra risks – if there are any – for people living with HIV. The data that we do have available, though, doesn’t suggest that COVID-19 runs any different compared to someone without HIV. In fact, studies done in the US, London, and Spain have shown that “while people with HIV have higher testing rates, thus far, we have not found evidence of [higher positivity rates] among those tested, nor an increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes…”

The main concern are the other illnesses that people with HIV tend to have. Illnesses like cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and obesity increase a person’s risk for having a more severe case of COVID-19.

Until more is known, people with HIV are advised to take additional cautions, including the standard social distancing and mask-wearing recommendations.

What Should I Do?

If you are HIV-positive and have concerns about how COVID-19 is going to affect your treatment, the CDC has some suggestions for what you can do. 

  • Maintain on-hand at least a 30-day supply—and ideally a 90-day supply—of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other medications. 
  • Talk to your pharmacists and/or health care providers about changing to mail order delivery of medications when possible. 
  • If you have a regimen switch planned, you should consider delaying the switch until close follow-up and monitoring are possible.

If you’re wondering about your clinic or laboratory visits, the CDC recommends: 

  • Together with their health care providers, persons with HIV and their providers should weigh the risks and benefits of attending HIV-related clinic appointments at this time. 
  • Telephone or virtual visits for routine or non-urgent care and adherence counseling may replace face-to-face encounters. 
  • For persons who have a suppressed HIV viral load and are in stable health, routine medical and laboratory visits should be postponed to the extent possible.

It can be worrying to know that there’s another virus out there and that your day-to-day life may change, but as long as you continue to follow the proper safety and health guidelines you have very little to worry about. Don’t forget that through it all, Health Services of North Texas will continue to help you manage your care and will be with you through every step of this temporary COVID-19 journey we’re going through.