COVD-19 is a serious disease and everyone living with HIV should take all recommended preventive measures to minimize exposure and prevent infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As in the general population, elderly people living with HIV or people living with HIV with heart or lung problems may be at a higher risk of being infected by the virus and having more severe symptoms. All people living with HIV should seek out their health care professionals to ensure that they have adequate stocks of essential drugs. Despite the expansion of HIV treatment in recent years, 15 million people living with HIV do not have access to antiretroviral therapy, which can compromise their immune system.
We will learn more about how HIV and COVID-19 together impact the lives of people living with HIV in countries and communities that face both epidemics. Lessons on service innovations or adaptations to minimize the impact on people living with HIV will be shared and replicated as they become available. Until more is known, people living with HIV — especially those with advanced illnesses or poor HIV control — should be cautious and pay attention to preventive measures and recommendations. It is also important that people living with HIV have enough refills of their HIV medications to continue treatment for months.
What UNAIDS is doing
UNAIDS is working with governments and partners in communities of people living with HIV and vulnerable to the virus to:
Conduct research to assess the needs for information, available drugs and the ability to access support service networks.
Find out whether the expanded antiretroviral therapy dispensation (for several months) is being fully implemented and, if not, help to identify solutions and alternatives on how to implement it.
Assess the possibility of interrupting the HIV service and develop plans for accessing these services.
What UNAIDS recommends
HIV services must continue to be available to people living with HIV and who are at risk of HIV infection. This includes ensuring the availability of condoms, harm reduction, pre-exposure prophylaxis and HIV testing, among other inputs for combined prevention.
To prevent people from running out of medicines and to reduce the need for access to the health system, countries should adopt the full implementation of the three-month or longer dispensation of HIV treatment.
Access to COVID-19 services must be guaranteed for vulnerable people, including a targeted approach to reaching those who are most marginalized and left behind, removing financial barriers, such as service fees, among others.