Do people living with HIV face more severe symptoms when battling COVID-19? It’s complicated, and we don’t know too much about this virus, but health experts are saying no for people who are HIV-positive and undetectable, MetroWeekly reports.
COVID-19 has dominated headlines in recent weeks, with concern about the coronavirus—a.k.a. the easily transmittable germ that causes the flu-like respiratory illness—prompting event cancellations, government-mandated closures, social distancing and self-quarantining measures, and even a state of emergency declaration from the Trump administration.
Since COVID-19 can involve life-threatening symptoms like shortness of breath or a high fever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have encouraged those with pre-existing health conditions to be especially cautious of coming in contact with the virus. And, as NewNowNext reported late last week, marginalized groups like the LGBTQ community tend to get hit disproportionately harder by public health crises, the coronavirus pandemic included.
But health experts say people living with HIV aren’t automatically more likely to experience more severe COVID-19 symptoms than HIV-negative people, assuming their viral load is undetectable due to regular use of antiretrovirals.
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Dr. Sebastian Ruhs, director of the Infectious Diseases Center of Excellence at Chase Brexton Health Care in Baltimore, told MetroWeekly. “The current data that we have is that someone who has a normal CD4 and is on medication to maintain an undetectable viral load does not behave any different from someone who is HIV-negative. So the risk for that population isn’t any higher. In that respect, [the coronavirus] appears to behave in a manner like other seasonal viruses do.”
As Poz reported last week, the same can’t be said for people living with HIV who “have a low CD4 count or do not have full viral suppression on antiretrovirals.” During the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on March 10, Dr. John Brooks of the CDC urged the entire HIV-positive community to exercise caution during this pandemic given how much “remains unknown.”
The coronavirus has the capacity to affect everyone. So keep up those good hand hygiene, social distancing, and self-quarantining practices whether you’re living with HIV or not (and for the love of all that is good and gay, please stop touching your face!)