The interaction between COVID-19 and HIV

Currently, there is no definitive evidence demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on children, adolescents and mothers living with HIV. However, Sub-saharan African countries highly impacted by HIV have now begun reporting a rise in COVID-19 infections.  It is likely that access to HIV testing and an uninterrupted supply of lifesaving antiretroviral medications will be disrupted as these countries divert health care resources to fighting the epidemic.  Yet, these services are essential for preventing disease progression, vertical HIV transmission and potentially the risk of severe outcomes of COVID19 disease.  And, reductions in access to HIV services due to social distancing measures such as lockdowns, curfews, and suspensions in transportation services will disproportionately affect the most marginalized groups living with HIV including young people.

There are 1.4 million pregnant women and 2.8 million children and adolescents living with HIV worldwide. Among them, about 20 per cent of pregnant women and close to 50 per cent of children and adolescents are not on life-saving HIV treatment. As a result, they are more likely to be living with a compromised immune system and may be at a heightened risk of more serious illness if they contract COVID-19.

Beyond the immediate medical risks and fear of contracting the virus, social distancing measures may exacerbate mental health issues affecting young people living with HIV, which are already often complex and challenging to manage. Women living with HIV may also be less likely or less able to visit the clinic for their baby’s timely HIV diagnosis.

Resources on HIV/AIDS and COVID-19

Children and AIDS COVID-19 and HIV Knowledge Hub

Press release: The cost of inaction – COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause hundreds of thousands of extra deaths from HIV