COVID-19 and Those Living with HIV

The novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) is a new coronavirus that is spreading from person-to-person and causes severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.  

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, information regarding risk factors is limited. So far, the limited data available indicates that the disease course of COVID-19 does not differ between those living with HIV and those without HIV. It is still unknown whether an advanced HIV infection is a risk factor for COVID-19. Currently, the CDC believes the risk for people with HIV may be higher if the patient has a low CD4 cell count and is not in HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART). 

At this time, the CDC asks those living with HIV to follow their basic guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including washing hands often, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and practicing social distancing (which is avoiding large groups and maintaining about six feet of distance between yourself and others). It is also important to take steps to protect others in your community, including staying home if you are sick, covering any coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow, and wearing a face mask, especially if you are sick and around others. 

Until more is known, additional caution for all persons with HIV, especially those with advanced or poorly controlled HIV, is warranted. Additional guidance for people living with HIV includes keeping influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations up to date, maintaining at least a 30-day supply (ideally a 90-day supply) of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other medications, and looking into programs that offer mail order delivery of medications if possible. Patients are encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider about telephone or virtual visits in place of in-person visits. If a patient has a suppressed HIV viral load and is in stable health, the CDC recommends postponing routine medical and laboratory visits to the extent possible. 

The CDC also highlights the importance of maintaining social networks, especially for people with HIV who may need extra help. Utilize online social networks, texting, video chats, and phone calls to keep in contact with friends, family, and neighbors. If you are sick, make sure to stay in touch with people who can help you. Maintaining social networks helps stave off feelings of loneliness, which can affect mental and physical health. 

For the most up-to-date information, you can check the following pages, from AIDSInfo and the CDC: