Rutgers University-New Brunswick

COVID-19 in People Living with HIV

Rutgers expert explains why COVID-19 pandemic poses additional difficulties, risks to people with HIV

Newswise — Stephanie Shiau, an HIV/AIDS researcher at the Rutgers School of Public Health says those living with the chronic illness who are infected with COVID-19 may be at a greater risk for physiological, social and psychological problems during this global pandemic.

The instructor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, who recently authored a paper in the journal AIDS and Behavior, talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect those with HIV.

Are people with HIV at a greater risk for contracting and dying from COVID-19?

In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people with HIV may be at a higher risk for severe cases of coronavirus disease because many patients with HIV are older and have other underlying health conditions. There was particular concern for people with HIV who are not receiving treatment or are experiencing advanced stages of HIV with a low CD4 cell count. However, there is limited evidence that people with HIV are at a greater risk of COVID-19 infection compared to the general population.

Does HIV anti-viral medication offer protection from COVID-19?

One hypothesis is that certain types of antiretroviral therapy used to prevent and treat HIV may provide some protection from acquiring and/or experiencing more severe cases of COVID-19. Research is underway, with some laboratory studies showing that some HIV medications are associated with an improved response against other coronaviruses, but not in patients with severe cases of COVID-19. Another HIV antiviral medication is being studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19. However, people with HIV should remain in communication with their health care providers and should not switch medications in an attempt to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Does the age of a person with HIV affect their vulnerability to more severe cases of COVID-19?

In the United States, there are approximately 1.2 million people with HIV, more than half of whom are over 50. Older age and underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are risk factors for more severe cases of COVID-19. Additionally, social distancing and self-isolation may be difficult for older adults with HIV as they may experience higher rates of loneliness and rely more on social networks.

What other challenges does the pandemic create for people living with HIV?

Individuals with HIV often have physical, psychological and social conditions that require ongoing and frequent contact with health care providers. With social distancing, it may be hard for them to access the care they need even through telemedicine. For example, there is a risk of interruptions in HIV treatment due to drop-offs in drug production. And lack of access to drugs that reduce the viral load of HIV may lead to increased risk of developing opportunistic infections and/or transmitting HIV to others. People with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to others; this is known as “Undetectable=Untransmittable” or “U=U.”

It is crucial that people with HIV stay in contact with their health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be important to document the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with HIV care.

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Released: 24-Sep-2020 5:05 AM EDT
Many Americans continue to maintain unhealthy lifestyle habits during COVID-19; overeating, alcohol drinking and marijuana use increase while exercise declines, reports USC Center for the Digital Future
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

After more than six months of living in a pandemic, large percentages of Americans continue to indulge in unhealthy lifestyle habits, including overeating and increased use of alcohol and marijuana — all while many are exercising less, according to a study of the cultural impact of COVID-19 conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future (CDF).

Newswise: Houston Methodist COVID-19 study shows rapid spread and potential for mutant viruses
Released: 23-Sep-2020 4:55 PM EDT
Houston Methodist COVID-19 study shows rapid spread and potential for mutant viruses
Houston Methodist

Molecular analysis of COVID-19’s powerful second wave in Houston shows a mutated virus strain linked to higher transmission and infection rates than the coronavirus strains that caused Houston’s first wave. Gene sequencing results from 5,085 COVID-positive patients tested at Houston Methodist since early March show a virus capable of adapting, surviving and thriving – making it more important than ever for physician scientists to understand its evolution as they work to discover effective vaccines and therapies.

Newswise: Likely molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis are revealed by network biology
Released: 23-Sep-2020 4:00 PM EDT
Likely molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis are revealed by network biology
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Researchers combined a lung-epithelial cell host interactome with a SARS-CoV-2 interactome. Network biology analysis of this human/SARS-CoV-2 interactome revealed potential molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newswise: Statins Reduce COVID-19 Severity, Likely by Removing Cholesterol That Virus Uses to Infect
Released: 23-Sep-2020 3:45 PM EDT
Statins Reduce COVID-19 Severity, Likely by Removing Cholesterol That Virus Uses to Infect
University of California San Diego Health

Analyzing anonymized patient medical records, UC San Diego researchers discovered that cholesterol-lowering statins reduced risk of severe COVID-19 infection, while lab experiments uncovered a cellular mechanism that helps explain why.

Newswise: Flu Season Returns As The COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
Released: 23-Sep-2020 2:00 PM EDT
Flu Season Returns As The COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
Johns Hopkins Medicine

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no end in sight, the annual flu season emerges once again. Cases of the flu have already begun to surface around the nation, and there are some reports of co-infection with COVID-19. Johns Hopkins Medicine experts say now is the time to take action to fight against the flu. Doctors recommend that everyone age 6 months and older get the flu vaccine each year to prevent infection from the virus or reduce the severity of the illness.

Released: 23-Sep-2020 1:45 PM EDT
Mathematics: Modelling the timings of a COVID-19 second wave in Europe
Scientific Reports

How a second wave of COVID-19 infections may evolve across Europe over the next few months, using data on infection rates and travel within and between European countries, is modelled in a Scientific Reports paper.

Released: 23-Sep-2020 1:20 PM EDT
Study: Death counts fail to capture full mortality effects of COVID-19
University of South Florida

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.

Released: 23-Sep-2020 1:10 PM EDT
Q&A: What’s in store for retailers during a pandemic holiday season?
Michigan State University

The 2020 holiday season, much like the majority of the year, will be like none other before. But what does this mean for retailers? Simone Peinkofer, assistant professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, discusses what holiday consumerism may look like for consumers and retailers alike.

Released: 23-Sep-2020 1:05 PM EDT
UK lockdown and air pollution: Nitrogen dioxide halved but sulphur dioxide doubled
University of Liverpool

A University of Liverpool study of air pollution in the UK during the first 100 days of lockdown has revealed that whilst nitrogen oxide levels were cut by half, levels of sulphur dioxide increased by over 100%.

Released: 23-Sep-2020 1:05 PM EDT
Rutgers Experts Explore Questions, Concerns Over COVID-19 Vaccine Trials
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

As researchers race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, a Rutgers infectious disease expert and a Rutgers bioethicist discuss how clinical trials work, the ethics of developing and distributing a vaccine, safety and efficacy in clinical trials and what a successful vaccine may mean.

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