Current status + progress
The interaction between COVID-19 and HIV
Currently, there is no real-world 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.
A recent analysis conducted by Avenir Health shows that if service disruptions were to affect 100 per cent of the population over a six-month period between April and September 2020, new HIV infections among young children could double.
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 and implement various social distancing measures that can create delays in the supply chain of essential drugs and materials. Yet, these services are essential for preventing disease progression, vertical HIV transmission and potentially the risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19.
There are 1.3 million pregnant women and 2.8 million children and adolescents living with HIV worldwide. Among them, about 15 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.