The World Health Organization has warned HIV is a “significant” risk factor for severe Covid-19.
The World Health Organization has said research shows a major increase in deaths among patients who have the virus that causes AIDS and who are also hospitalized with Covid-19. Previous studies had failed to establish a clear link between HIV and a higher likelihood of severe Covid-19 illness and death.
There are more than 37 million people known to be living with HIV worldwide, and up to 45 million have died from the virus since the start of the AIDS pandemic. Researchers analyzed data on more than 15,500 people living with HIV who were hospitalized for Covid-19. The average age of patients was 45.5 years and more than a third had severe or critical Covid-19. Ninety-two percent had received anti-retroviral therapy prior to hospitalization. Among those patients whose outcome was recorded, 23 percent died in hospital.
IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman said the study results showed the importance of prioritizing people living with HIV in national Covid-19 vaccination programs. “The global community must do more to ensure immediate vaccine supply to countries with high HIV disease prevalence,” said Kamarulzaman. “It is unacceptable that as of today, less than three percent of the entire African continent has received a single dose of the vaccine, and less than 1.5 percent have received both doses.”
In some regions of South Africa, HIV testing fell nearly 50 percent during the first lockdown in April 2020 as 28,000 health workers were moved from HIV programs to Covid-19 screening. “Rich countries in Europe are preparing to enjoy the summer as their populations have easy access to COVID-19 vaccines, while the global South is in crisis,” said Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS executive director. “We have failed to learn the lessons of HIV, when millions were denied life-saving medicines and died because of inequalities in access. This is totally unacceptable.”