COVID-19: Karim raises concern about HIV+ patients not on ARVs

Karim is advising the government on its COVID-19 response and he presented a comprehensive outlook on the expected trajectory of the pandemic in the country.

FILE: A nurse conducts an HIV test at a voluntary testing centre. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Epidemiologist professor Salim Abdool Karim said one of his main concerns was the unknown effect that COVID-19 would have on HIV positive people who were not on antiretroviral therapy.

Karim is advising the government on its COVID-19 response and he presented a comprehensive outlook on the expected trajectory of the pandemic in the country.

On Tuesday, he said there were 2.5 million South Africans who are HIV positive but not on ARVs and half a million of them have very low CD4 count.

WATCH: COVID 19 Situation Desk - 14 April 2020 AM

“If they did know, then they need to start their ARVs very quickly. But I must be clear that we actually don’t know how HIV patients would actually respond. I was giving a hypothetical scenario," he said.

South Africa has the world's largest HIV-positive population and as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country, scientists are still uncertain about the specific risks faced by people living with HIV.

But several health experts said it was possible to extrapolate from previous research on how HIV-positive people have reacted to other viral infections.

_Additional reporting by AFP. _