Study looks at how people infected with HIV cope with Covid-19

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  • Almost four million people formed part of a review focusing on the effect of Covid-19 on people with HIV.
  • Most HIV patients with Covid-10 showed no severe symptoms and made a full recovery. 
  • The study included more than 3.5 million people from South Africa.

New research has shown that most HIV patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus show no severe Covid-19 symptoms and completely recover from the infection.

The systematic review published in Immunity, Inflammation and Disease assessed the impact of Covid-19 on people with HIV. 

Looking at the studies

The researchers chose 36 studies, published between January and December 2020, that fit their criteria. 

The review looked at studies from the United States, China, Italy, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, among others. The multistudy paper looked at case reports and large cohort studies, such as a South African study involving almost  3.5 million people.

Out of close to four million Covid-19 patients, 89 343 had Covid-19 and HIV coinfection, of whom 72% were male.

The impact of Covid-19 on people with HIV

The study's findings show that even with low CD4 counts and compromised immune systems, people living with HIV do not present with severe symptoms and high mortality rates following Covid-19 infection.

"The majority of studies included in this review indicate mild or no typical symptoms of Covid-19 in HIV patients, particularly in those during the advanced stages of HIV disease.

"This review also found an unexpectedly high recovery rate in these patients after Covid-19 infection, which contradicts the common knowledge of higher morbidity and mortality rates in immunocompromised patients," the researchers wrote.

Vaccine safety for people living with HIV

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Covid-19 vaccines are safe for HIV-positive people.

"No safety or efficacy data have emerged to cause worry that people living with HIV are at any greater risk from Covid-19 vaccines than anyone else," UNAIDS states in a statement.

The organisation says that people with HIV have been part of Covid-19 trials, and there has been no out of the ordinary reaction linked to HIV status from the trials.

"Some of the trials for the vaccines included participants from countries where HIV is more common, such as South Africa, and so will have included a number of people living with HIV. However, some trials excluded people living with HIV as a precautionary measure," UNAIDS explains.

The international body says that there is no reason to expect higher levels of mild or more severe reactions among people living with HIV.

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