What COVID-19 means for people living with HIV

Medical experts say it’s too early to know exactly how people living with HIV may be affected by COVID-19.

Posted: Mar 27, 2020 11:52 AM
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 12:19 PM

EUGENE, Ore. – It’s too early to know exactly how people living with HIV may be affected by COVID-19, medical experts say.

HIV Alliance Medical Director Dr. Robert Barnes said there is no reason to believe people with HIV are more likely to get coronavirus than any other person. However, Barnes said if an HIV infection has compromised someone’s immune system, they may not be able to fight off coronavirus like a person with a healthier immune system would. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in general people with HIV are most vulnerable to viral respiratory infections if they have a low white blood cell count or are not on HIV medication. For those already taking medication to treat HIV, Barnes said there may be even less of a difference in their body’s ability to fight coronavirus.

“There's no indication from the earlier outbreaks that HIV infected individuals would have a great deal of difficulty if they were on medication,” Barnes said.

Barnes said an older HIV medication is also being looked at as a treatment for coronavirus, but recent clinical trials conducted in China have been unsuccessful. Much of the research into how COVID-19 and HIV interact is ongoing and may not be understood for many months.

“We don't have a great deal of specific information about how HIV patients might react in terms of being able to defend themselves against the virus,” Barnes said.

Barnes also said those with HIV don't need to worry about shortages of medication.

The CDC also does not report any manufacturing or supply concerns.

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