COVID-19 RISK IS LIKELY NOT HIGHER FOR PEOPLE WITH HIV
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people in the United States and around the world. Fortunately, the availability of vaccines are expected to reduce the number new infections and deaths.
The concern of many older adults with HIV is whether they have higher risks of COVID-19 infection and severe disease compared to people who are HIV negative.
According to HIV.gov and consistent with recommendations from the CDC based on limited evidence, it is believed that people with HIV who are on effective treatment have the same risk for COVID-19 as people who do not have HIV”
However, the following factors may increase risks for COVID-19 infection for adults with HIV:
- Age older than 60 years
- Multiple illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, etc.
- Lower socioeconomic status
- CD4 count below 350
- Unsuppressed viral load
A recent U.K. study found that among 14,882 COVID-19 deaths, only 25 were in people with HIV. People with HIV under 60 years old had a lower risk of death from COVID-19 than people over 60. Diabetes led to a higher risk of death from COVID-19. The study also found that Black people (many of whom were in a lower socioeconomic class) had a higher percent of deaths from COVID-19 than others.
A report from New York City concluded that the effects of COVID-19 in older adults with HIV were not more severe. This study compared COVID-19 patients with HIV to those without HIV. There were no significant differences in the number of intensive care admissions, ventilator use, or deaths. A group of HIV patients with COVID-19 in New Jersey had similar disease severity and death compared to those without HIV.
In another study, 85% of people with HIV who had experienced a severe episode of COVID-19 were also found to have more comorbidities such as obesity, heart disease, or high blood pressure. This study confirms the importance of non-HIV factors on COVID-19 outcomes.
If you are Black or Latino, your race or ethnicity may put you at higher risk of COVID-19 due to health care access, institutional bias, and lower economic status. The negative effects of the virus are likely not from HIV but rather from the conditions associated with race or ethnicity.
REDUCING YOUR RISK
In addition to wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible, older adults with HIV can reduce their risk of severe COVID-19 disease by addressing other risk factors such as high blood pressure. heart disease, and chronic illnesses. Contact your health care team to learn what you can do to lower your risks.