COVID effect on HIV Patients
How do COVID Effects HIV Patients?
Researchers and doctors are still learning about COVID-19, including the Delta variant and how it affects people with HIV. This is an evolving, rapidly evolving situation and scientists are learning more every day.
There is a lot to be still learned about the risk of COVID-19 in people living with HIV. As per the current evidence people living with HIV are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill, and dying from, COVID-19, than people without HIV.
But, HIV appears to be less of a risk factor in comparison to other health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, severe asthma, respiratory disease, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, dementia, or older age.
The best way to stay healthy and safe from COVID is to take your antiretroviral treatment, along with any medication prescribed by your healthcare provider for other health conditions.
Health authorities from World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommend that people living with HIV receive a COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
As per the current data, there is no evidence of COVID-19 vaccines having more side effects in people living with HIV who are on effective antiretroviral (ARV) therapy than people with no underlying health conditions. It has been advised that people living with HIV should inform the healthcare staff giving the vaccine shot about any other health-related conditions, such as allergies, that may put them at risk of more serious side effects when immunized.
Many countries have even published guidelines for people with certain health conditions that may lead to vaccination side effects.
How does COVID-19 affect people with HIV?
The effect of coronavirus on people with HIV is not fully known. As per the recent data, it appears that people living with HIV might be at increased risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19. The risk is more if they are not adhering to treatment or live with certain co-morbidities than people without HIV.
More recent data also suggests that there is an increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, hospitalization, and death, in people living with HIV who are immune-compromised. These are people living with HIV along with:
Low CD4 cell counts (<350 copies/cell),
High viral load,
Recent opportunistic infections, like tuberculosis (TB)
Current AIDS-defining illness.
This makes them more vulnerable to more severe illnesses. This makes it more important for immune-compromised people living with HIV to adhere to antiretroviral therapy to suppress the virus. They should follow the same precautions as everyone else to reduce their risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. These precautions include wearing a mask, washing hands, keeping a physical distance, and avoiding crowded spaces, and are called non-pharmaceutical interventions.
It is proven that COVID-19 affects people living with HIV with viral suppression and low CD4 count, the same it affects the general population. This data is based on other coronavirus infections disease outbreaks, such as SARS (caused by SARS-CoV-1) and MERS (caused by MERS-CoV), where only a few cases of mild disease among people living with HIV were reported.
People living with HIV along with Co-Morbidities
People living with HIV may have other co-morbidities as well as old age (over 60 years of age). Current clinical data recommend that older people and people with other co-morbidities, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and hypertension, are at an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness compared with others.
If you are living with HIV and are older and/or have other co-morbidities, then you must keep taking any prescribed chronic medication along with antiretroviral medications.
The chances of hospitalization or even death are higher in people living with both HIV and TB, people living with HIV who are also living with TB, or who are TB survivors as they have lung damage. Both pulmonary TB and COVID-19 affect the lungs. It is important to protect people living with TB as well as TB survivors from SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Thus, they may be more susceptible to COVID-19 and may develop serious illnesses. They should follow the guideline more seriously on infection control practices, such as physical distancing.
How can people living with HIV prevent COVID-19 infection?
The person living with HIV should strictly adhere to the anti-retroviral medication to keep viral load suspended as well as high CD4 count. The guideline for people living with HIV is almost the same as everyone else, including:
Stay at least one meter away from people as much as possible.
Wear a face mask around others always.
Avoid places that are crowded, confined, or involve close contact with others, mainly indoors.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your face.
Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Cover your nose and mouth with clean tissue when you sneeze or cough, or use your elbow.
Throw the used tissue away and wash your hands afterward.
Meet people you don’t live with outdoors.
Keep indoor spaces well ventilated, by opening windows and doors.
You should limit physical contact to as few people as possible if you are at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
People living with HIV should be more cautious and take extra steps to look after their health during this time. These may include:
Try and stock up on your antiretroviral treatment, or any other medication you need to take.
Get your vaccinations up-to-date, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines.
Keep the contact details for your health care facility and peer supporters handy.
Plan for your needs if you might have to stay at home, including food and medicine.
Eat well and exercise even at home.
Look after your mental health and seek support if you require it.
Vaccination and People living with HIV
The COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe for people living with HIV. The vaccines must pass multiple safety trials, and be reviewed by national regulators to ensure they are both safe and effective. To be approved many of the COVID-19 vaccine trials included people living with HIV.
Getting vaccinated will protect you from getting sick from COVID-19, so it’s really important to get it when you’re offered. This is important for people living with HIV, who appear to be at a higher risk. The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect your antiretroviral treatment in any way.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, but the treatment advancement has made it possible to live a healthy life. People living with HIV are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, if they do not adhere to anti-retroviral medication, with low CD4 count, or virally suppressed. Apart from following healthcare guidelines, it is also important to get vaccinated.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from HIV, our expert providers at ASP Cares will take care of your health and help you recover.
Call us on (210)-417-4567 to book an appointment with our specialists.