HIV positive S. Africans urged to take treatment amid COVID-19 pandemic
A clinician believes HIV positive citizens who remain on treatment and whose viral loads are at undetectable levels, were likely to be at no greater risk of contracting the coronavirus compared to the rest of the population.
JOHANNESBURG - As South Africans with compromised immune systems are continuously warned to be extra cautious amid the COVID-19 pandemic, questions have been raised about the vulnerability of the country’s large HIV population on antiretroviral treatment.
HIV clinician Dr Kay Mahomed, who runs an HIV clinic at Netcare Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg, believes HIV positive South Africans who remain on treatment and whose viral loads are at undetectable levels, are likely to be at no greater risk of contracting the coronavirus compared to the rest of the population.
On the contrary, Mahomed said HIV-positive patients who were not receiving treatment, or who had stopped taking their antiretrovirals during the lockdown, were likely to be at a greater risk of infection.
It was reported that thousands of people in Gauteng had failed to collect their medicine over the lockdown period.
Mahomed said they were also at risk of developing other HIV-associated conditions such as tuberculosis.
“The good old days of when your immune system was like dead is not there anymore, and a couple of years when we started the testing programme, we started putting all patients on antiretroviral therapy. So, those patients who went on treatment, at that time were doing really well now because their viral loads were undetectable and they had good CD4 counts,” she said.
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