A new study conducted by researchers from Penn State explored the risks associated with consumers with HIV contracting COVID-19. According to their work, HIV could increase the severity of COVID-19 and also increase the risk of death from the infection.
“Previous studies were inconclusive on whether or not HIV is a risk factor for susceptibility to SARS-Co-V-2 infection and poor outcomes in populations with COVID-19,” said researcher Dr. Paddy Ssentongo. “This is because a vast majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are on [antiretroviral therapy], some of which have been used experimentally to treat COVID-19.”
Assessing the health risks
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly two dozen earlier studies that included information from more than 21 million people. All of the participants had HIV or AIDS, and the researchers evaluated their health outcomes after getting infected with COVID-19.
The team learned that those with HIV were nearly 80% more likely to die from COVID-19, and they were nearly 25% more likely to contract the virus.
The researchers noted that the large majority of participants involved in the study -- more than 95% -- were taking antiretrovirals for HIV therapy. It was believed that these drugs could reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections, but these study findings can’t prove either way what role these medications play when HIV interacts with the coronavirus.
The team explained that having HIV or AIDS can be associated with other pre-existing conditions that increase the severity of COVID-19, including diabetes, COPD, and high blood pressure. Moving forward, they hope their work prompts more people with pre-existing conditions, including HIV and AIDS, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“As the pandemic has evolved, we’ve obtained sufficient information to characterize the epidemiology of HIV/SARS-CoV-2 coinfection, which could not be done at the beginning of the pandemic due to scarcity of data,” said researcher Vernon Chinchilli. “Our findings support the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to prioritize persons living with HIV to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”