Of course, PLHIV who have a CD4 count less than 200 cells per microlitre, also known as having advanced HIV disease, would be at higher risk of acquiring any infection and need to follow more strictly the general advice of observing hygiene,
Dear Doctor, My mother is 70 years old and has HIV. She has been on ARVs for about 10 years, her CD4 count is high and her viral load is undetectable.
However, she is also diabetic, which has made us really worried with the looming coronavirus epidemic. We have been told that elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes are more likely to catch coronavirus.
Are people living with HIV like my mother at a higher risk of contracting it? Secondly, is it true that some ARVs can cure coronavirus?
Martha A Dear Martha,
The news about the coronavirus (COVID-19) is indeed of great concern for all of us and keeps changing almost on a daily basis. However, there is no data about how it affects people living with HIV (PLHIV).
There is no evidence to suggest that HIV-positive people are at a higher risk of getting infected with the virus.
From what we have learnt about the epidemic in China and now Europe, older people (who have reduced immune function) are at a higher risk of COVID-19, especially if they are older than 70 years.
Of course, PLHIV who have a CD4 count less than 200 cells per microlitre, also known as having advanced HIV disease, would be at higher risk of acquiring any infection and need to follow more strictly the general advice of observing hygiene, which includes washing hands regularly using soap and clean water plus minimising touching one's face and avoiding unnecessary contact with other people.
Incidentally, we have always encouraged PLHIV to always have access to clean water for drinking and personal hygiene as part of the basic care package for PLHIV.
Concerning the use of ARVs in treating COVID-19, lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra or Alluvia) one of the second line ARVs, is being studied as a possible treatment of the virus, but this is based on very limited evidence of its effect with similar viruses.
So far, there is no clear evidence that lopinavir/ ritonavir is beneficial or that other ARVs can help.
Answered by Dr. Watiti