COVID-19 has been a pandemic everyone of us just wants to be over and forget these horrifying couple of years once and for all. It has not been an easy situation to handle for any of us ever since it first appeared in central China back in December 2019. It, however, has been even tougher for certain people who have a weaker immune system.
Many studies have proven that COVID-19 is even deadlier for those whose immune system isn’t up to the mark or are suffering from a condition that compromises their immune system.
It would not be wrong to say that people who are already suffering from Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) have been the most troubled lot amongst the people susceptible of getting severe symptoms and hospitalisation due to the respiratory infection.
What did the experts anticipate?
Ever since the coronavirus started spreading across the globe, the healthcare community was worried that it was going to severely affect HIV patients and those with a compromised immune system.
The anticipation was not wrong as the weaker immune system of HIV patients might not have played a role in making them more prone to get infected but it most certainly increased the chances of a more severe case of COVID-19, once the virus was contracted.
Lauren K. Barbera, from the University of Colorado and her teammates, in a review article published in HIV Research and Clinical Practice, have claimed that the recent studies have proven that people with HIV (PWH) are at a bigger risk of suffering from a severe disease on contracting COVID-19, even if they have fairly controlled HIV infection.
The review paper submitted by Barbera and her colleagues had combined a total of 212 articles published on the subject from March 2020 to July 2021.
What do the studies suggest?
A real extensive study, conducted on over three million patients in South Africa, suggests that HIV patients have a two-fold bigger risk of COVID-19 death, irrespective of CD4 count or HIV viral load. Some other studies have also suggested similar outcomes for HIV patients.
In yet another shocking stat, people living with HIV, who are about 0.7 percent of the world’s population, accounted for about 0.5 to 1.5 percent of COVID-19 cases around the globe.
The correlation between COVID-19 and HIV
Discussed below are some facts giving a more clear picture of the correlation between COVID-19 and HIV. Have a look:
Presenting similar symptoms
Fever, shortness of breath, cough and cold are some of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. Other symptoms may include muscle pain, loss of smell and taste and headaches.
The authors of the study, conducted on 286 people with HIV, have found that they noticed similar symptoms in them too. People with HIV should consult their doctor even if they notice the slightest discomfort or any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
More chances of a severe case
The review also claimed that a lot of studies and case reports suggest that people suffering from HIV, who contract COVID-19 infection, are more susceptible to be severely ill or get admitted to ICU than the people who do not have HIV.
The reviewers also claimed that the mortality rate due to COVID-19 is also higher among HIV patients. The study quoted in the review to support the mortality rate is based on a study conducted in the United Kingdom that proved it to be true. The number of deaths reported in the study, however, was relatively low.
More impact on mental health
As we all know, social distancing, quarantining and self-isolation due to COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the mental health of people in the recent past. According to Barbara and her teammates, the studies have found the impact to be even bigger on the minds of HIV patients.
One of the studies in the review submitted by the team of the University of Colorado proved that people suffering from HIV were more concerned about their physical health, mental health, accommodations and finances during the pandemic.
The researchers also pointed out that telemedicine played a big role in preventing these mental issues turn into something serious due to the privacy and flexibility it offers but the HIV patients had to overcome the barriers of socioeconomic status, digital literacy and reimbursement issues.
As expected, HIV patients had to be even more cautious during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their compromised immune systems and should continue their treatment and follow-ups for HIV. There, however, was a silver lining that they also had to take the same precautions to avoid contracting the virus as a non-HIV infected l person.
As we are advancing towards endemicity in India, we should not lower our guard against the virus. We all should unite to follow all the precautionary measures like social distancing, wearing a mask, frequently washing our hands, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible to finally kick this virus out of our country.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.