On the Intersection of two Pandemics: The Influence of COVID-19 on HIV

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Worldwide, there are at the moment 38 million folks residing with HIV (PLHIV).1 The decades-long combat towards HIV has overcome a number of hurdles, and its newest problem is the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic.

The intersection of those 2 pandemics has led to disruptions in HIV providers, accelerated the debut of telehealth into HIV care, and highlighted the vulnerability of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities, that are populations at excessive danger for each HIV and COVID-19. A physique of rising analysis has resulted in an try and quantify these modifications and predict the brand new trajectory of the HIV pandemic.

Disruptions to HIV Care

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Authorities-mandated lockdowns, vital to stop the unfold of COVID-19, have had wide-ranging results on the supply of well being care. World wide, PLHIV acquired fewer assessments and had much less entry to remedy.2,3  

Information collected by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) from March to September 2020 confirmed widespread declines within the numbers of sufferers initiating HIV remedy in addition to declines in HIV testing.1 As well as, of 13 nations reporting adequate month-to-month knowledge, 6 had 25% or better decreases within the variety of pregnant girls examined for HIV, and 5 out of 10 nations had a 25% or better lower within the variety of pregnant girls initiated on antiretroviral remedy (ART). Though a few of these declines had been sharp and brief lived, others persevered via September 2020.

A cohort research printed in The Lancet HIV of 455 HIV-negative pregnant girls in Cape City, South Africa, evaluated the impact of a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown on antenatal visits and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prescriptions. The ladies had been screened for PrEP eligibility at their first antenatal go to, and 91% opted to begin PrEP. General, 34% of girls missed their PrEP visits earlier than the lockdown, and 57% missed their PrEP visits through the lockdown.2

“Frequent clinic visits had been difficult for ladies earlier than the lockdown,” famous Dvora Joseph Davey, PhD, lead creator of the research, “particularly within the postpartum interval.” Girls cited time and journey constraints, and a few didn’t perceive why they wanted to proceed PrEP after giving start.

“However the proportion of girls who reported these causes elevated considerably with the [COVID-19] lockdown. The well being facility was perceived as a dangerous place to go, particularly with a new child child,” mentioned Dr Davey. Earlier than the pandemic, “nobody ever expressed worry of coming into the clinic”; nevertheless, COVID-19 has created a worry of coming into the clinic that also persists, she added.

To deal with this worry, Dr Davey and her group tailored their protocols. They switched prolonged well being interviews to cellphone interviews, gave multimonth PrEP prescriptions, and utilized a differentiated care mannequin that delivered HIV testing and remedy outdoors the well being clinic and into the neighborhood. “I feel all of these issues — differentiated care, shortened visits, multimonth prescriptions — ought to be continued even outdoors of a pandemic,” Dr Davey emphasised.

Provide chains for ART had been disrupted by COVID-19, in keeping with a survey carried out by the European AIDS Therapy Group in late April 2020 and early Could 2020. The survey additionally discovered that PLHIV had been requested to change their remedy regimens to prioritize sure ART combos for COVID-19 remedy as an alternative. Some nations suspended voluntary medical male circumcision packages from April 2020 to June 2020 to concentrate on important well being providers, and others suspended female and male condom packages, as properly.1

But regardless of the obstacles posed by COVID-19 measures, many nations had been capable of preserve affected person entry to ART long run. Amongst 25 nations reporting adequate month-to-month knowledge to UNAIDS, solely 6 reported a sustained decline within the complete variety of PLHIV receiving ART as of April 2020.1 Declining numbers in testing and PrEP or ART initiation weren’t solely because of restricted entry. Modifications in sexual practices from much less socialization through the COVID-19 lockdown obviated a few of the want for HIV providers.4

A research printed in The Lancet HIV carried out amongst 364 sufferers on the Melbourne Sexual Well being Centre discovered that the variety of postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) prescriptions decreased by 66% throughout 4 weeks of a COVID-19 lockdown in contrast with the 4 weeks earlier than the lockdown. The research authors famous that this lower was probably because of lowered sexual danger as an alternative of lowered entry as a result of the well being heart remained open and accessible all through the lockdown.5

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Illnesses on the Nationwide Institutes of Well being, coauthored an article printed in April 2021, HIV/AIDS within the Period of COVID-19: A Juxtaposition of two Pandemics, which outlined the results that COVID-19 has had on the HIV pandemic.6 “There was a disruption within the regular habits of life when folks residing with HIV had been coping with a pandemic that was threatening to kill them,” Dr Fauci mentioned in an interview.

Telehealth: The New Face of HIV Care?

Telehealth was tough to implement earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic due to quite a few laws. Sufferers needed to stay in designated rural or medically underserved areas, solely sure suppliers might invoice for telehealth visits, and sufferers couldn’t be a part of telehealth visits from their houses however wanted to journey to an permitted location to attach with a go to. Personal insurance coverage payors restricted reimbursement, price sharing, and prescription refills for telehealth visits.7

But telehealth has emerged as a solution to keep away from HIV care disruptions because of COVID-19 measures. In March 2020, the Division of Well being and Human Companies (DHHS) and the Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Companies enacted a number of emergency waivers to raise restrictions on telehealth.8 The DHHS now recommends phone or digital visits for routine, non-urgent HIV care and counseling as an alternative of in-person encounters.8 In February 2020, 0.1% of Medicare visits had been performed by way of telehealth; in April 2020, 43.5% of Medicare visits had been carried out by way of telehealth.7

There have been conflicting knowledge from research on HIV telehealth through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some research reported greater affected person engagement,9 whereas others reported extra sufferers misplaced to follow-up.10

Points with HIV telehealth exist, together with considerations about high quality of care, privateness, reimbursement, price, medicolegal dangers, and a diminished private connection between affected person and supplier. A really distinguished concern is the “digital divide” that separates HIV sufferers alongside socioeconomic strains: these with entry to ample know-how and people with out.7 But most PLHIV and suppliers in these research reported optimistic attitudes towards telehealth, citing the flexibility to keep away from each journey and the worry of stigma with in-person HIV clinic visits.

Dr Davey and her group in South Africa discovered that well being interviews by way of phone had been “fairly efficient at shortening visits and shortening contact when it comes to the pandemic.”

She is making ready to publish a research on the position of stigma in HIV care for ladies in South Africa.

“A giant concern [among women in the study] is the worry of even speaking with their accomplice about HIV,” mentioned Dr Davey. Since HIV is hyperendemic in South Africa, “PrEP is a solution to defend them and their toddler from getting HIV,” Dr Davey defined. “That stigma of looking for PrEP continues to be an issue.”

Due to this fact, telehealth will probably proceed to be a mainstay of HIV care, and additional research of the problems talked about right here shall be vital within the approaching period of post-COVID-19 HIV care.7

Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino Populations

People in Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities have greater charges of HIV,6 COVID-19 infections, and worse COVID-19 scientific outcomes,11 warranting particular consideration through the intersection of the two pandemics. But does HIV predispose these people to COVID-19 an infection and worse scientific outcomes, or not?

A scientific evaluate of 25 research printed in AIDS and Habits discovered that coinfection with HIV isn’t a danger issue for COVID-19.12 Relating to COVID-19 scientific outcomes, the analysis is blended. Some research reported a major distinction within the severity of COVID-19 an infection in PLHIV.11 Nonetheless, the biggest US cohort-based research of COVID-19 sufferers with and with out HIV discovered comparable charges of SARS-CoV-2 an infection, hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, intubation, and demise between each cohorts.6

“Not each individual residing with HIV is similar,” famous Dr Fauci. “There are some individuals residing with HIV who’re on [ART], they’ve regular CD4 counts, and so they have a virus that’s beneath detectable ranges; their danger of getting a extreme final result of SARS-CoV-2 could be very, very low.”

Numerous research point out that HIV-associated comorbidities, moderately than HIV itself, places PLHIV in danger for worse COVID-19 outcomes. These embody sure cancers, power kidney illness, power obstructive pulmonary illness, sure cardiovascular illnesses, weight problems, and sort 2 diabetes.6

“Should you take a look at all HIV-infected folks, all different issues being equal, the truth that somebody has a better probability of getting a extreme final result is generally associated to the truth that they’ve extra of an incidence of the underlying circumstances resulting in a extra critical COVID-19 final result,” Dr Fauci continued.

All of those comorbidities are additionally danger components for extreme COVID-19 within the basic inhabitants13 and are notably frequent amongst Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities. These circumstances, moderately than HIV, could predispose Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino PLHIV to extreme COVID-19 an infection outcomes.6

But disruptions in HIV care through the COVID-19 pandemic elevated the illness burden of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino PLHIV. A survey of 2732 males who’ve intercourse with males and different homosexual males, the outcomes of which had been printed in AIDS and Habits, discovered that those that recognized as racial or ethnic minorities vs those that didn’t felt much less particular of their potential to entry condoms (62% vs 68%; P <.001) and HIV self-tests (17% vs 20%; P =.03), and extra issue accessing or refilling ART prescriptions (25% vs 15%; P =.004) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.14

“Black and Hispanic folks typically have important jobs that put them into direct contact with different folks,” defined Dr Fauci. “Due to this fact, they’ve a better probability of being uncovered to SARS-CoV-2.”

Progress within the HIV Pandemic

Will COVID-19 stall progress within the combat towards HIV/AIDS? Projections from UNAIDS present that COVID-19-related disruptions in HIV care could result in 123,000 to 293,000 extra HIV infections and 69,000 to 148,000 extra AIDS-related deaths globally from 2020 to 2022.1 About 26 million folks had been on ART as of mid-June 2020, reflecting solely a 2.4% improve from the tip of 2019, in contrast with a 4.8% remedy protection improve from January 2019 to June 2019.1

A modeling research printed in The Lancet HIV discovered {that a} 6-month interruption within the ART provide to 50% of PLHIV in sub-Saharan Africa might lead to a 1.63 (vary, 1.39-1.87) instances improve in HIV-related deaths over a 1-year interval in contrast with no disruptions, yielding 296,000 (vary, 229,023-420,000) extra deaths.15 Disruptions of varied HIV providers because of COVID-19-prevention packages, testing, remedy, and care might result in a rise in deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.15

“You will have every little thing from an absence of providers for the prevention to an absence of implementation of the interventions similar to PEP, PrEP, and remedy,” mentioned Dr Fauci. “Whenever you don’t deal with people who find themselves contaminated, you don’t get the viral load beneath detectable ranges; they wind up infecting different folks, and you’ve got a propagation of the outbreak.”

There’s a vivid aspect, nevertheless. With large-scale COVID-19 vaccination, UNAIDS initiatives that HIV providers will rebound rapidly, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the HIV pandemic shall be comparatively brief lived.1

Due to this fact, UNAIDS developed new targets for 2025 with a view to obtain their 2030 purpose of 90% discount in annual HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. The 2025 targets concentrate on offering a core mixture of HIV providers, together with a number of HIV prevention choices, HIV testing, ART, and help for reaching and sustaining viral suppression.1

Going ahead, Dr Fauci feels that investing in science and analysis is the very best precedence for staving off future pandemics and ending the present ones. “It was a long time of funding in science — each scientific, preclinical, and primary science — which led to the event of extremely profitable, extremely efficient, and really secure vaccines,” he identified. “The best argument for funding in biomedical analysis is the truth that we’ve been capable of very expeditiously develop efficient vaccines for SARS-CoV-2,” Dr Fauci concluded.


1. UNAIDS. Prevailing towards pandemics by placing folks on the centre. World AIDS Day Report 2020. Revealed November 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.unaids.org/websites/default/recordsdata/media_asset/prevailing-against-pandemics_en.pdf

2. Davey DLJ, Bekker L-G, Mashele N, Gorbach P, Coates TJ, Myer L. PrEP retention and prescriptions for pregnant girls throughout COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa. Lancet HIV. 2020;7(11):e735. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(20)30226-5

3. Krakower D, Solleveld P, Levine Ok, Mayer Ok. Influence of COVID-19 on HIV preexposure prophylaxis care at a Boston neighborhood well being heart. Summary 11755 offered at: AIDS 2020: twenty third Worldwide AIDS Convention; July 6-10, 2020; digital.

4. Chow EPF, Hocking JS, Ong JJ, et al. Altering the usage of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis amongst males who’ve intercourse with males through the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne, AustraliaOpen Discussion board Infect Dis. 2020;7(7):ofaa275. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofaa275

5. Chow EPF, Hocking JS, Ong JJ, Phillips TR, Fairley CK. Postexposure prophylaxis throughout COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, AustraliaLancet HIV. 2020;7(8):e528-e529. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(20)30204-6

6. Eisinger RW, Lerner AM, Fauci AS. Human immunodeficiency virus/AIDS within the period of COVID-19: a juxtaposition of two pandemics. J Infect Dis. Revealed on-line April 7, 2021. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiab114

7. Budak JZ, Scott JD, Dhanireddy S, Wooden BR. The affect of COVID-19 on HIV care offered by way of telemedicine—previous, current, and future. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2021;18(2):98-104. doi:10.1007/s11904-021-00543-4

8. Division of Well being and Human Companies. Interim steering for COVID-19 and individuals with HIV. Medical information HIV.gov web site. Up to date February 26, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://clinicalinfo.hiv.gov/en/tips/covid-19-and-persons-hiv-interim-guidance/interim-guidance-covid-19-and-persons-hiv

9. Mayer KH, Levine Ok, Grasso C, Multani A, Gonzalez A, Biello Ok. Speedy migration to telemedicine in a Boston neighborhood well being heart is related to upkeep of efficient engagement in HIV care. Summary 541 offered at: ID Week Convention; October 21-25, 2020; digital.

10. Fadul N, Regan N. A high quality administration challenge of a midwestern tutorial HIV clinic operation throughout COVID-19: implementation technique and preliminary outcomes. Summary 112 offered at: ID Week Convention; October 21-25, 2020; digital.

11. Pan D, Sze S, Minhas JS, et al. The affect of ethnicity on scientific outcomes in COVID-19: a scientific evaluateEClinicalMedicine. 2020;3(23):100404. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100404

12. Mirzaei H, McFarland W, Karamouzian M, Sharifi H. COVID-19 amongst folks residing with HIV: a scientific evaluate. AIDS Behav. 2021;25(1):85-92. doi:10.1007/s10461-020-02983-2

13. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Science transient: proof used to replace the record of underlying medical circumstances that improve an individual’s danger of extreme sickness from COVID-19. COVID-19 web site. Up to date Could 12, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-care/underlying-evidence-table.html?CDC_AA_refVal=httpspercent3Apercent2Fpercent2Fwww.cdc.govpercent2Fcoronaviruspercent2F2019-ncovpercent2Fneed-extra-precautionspercent2Fevidence-table.html

14. Santos G-M, Ackerman B, Rao A, et al. Financial, psychological well being, HIV prevention and HIV remedy impacts of COVID-19 and the COVID-19 response on a world pattern of cisgender homosexual males and different males who’ve intercourse with males. AIDS Behav. 2021;25(2):311-321. doi:10.1007/s10461-020-02969-0

15. Jewell BL, Mudimu E, Stover J, et al. Potential results of disruption to HIV programmes in sub-Saharan Africa attributable to COVID-19: outcomes from a number of mathematical fashions. Lancet HIV. 2020;7(9):e629-e640. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(20)30211-3

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