By Vivian Agaba
People living with HIV especially those not adhering to their drugs are more likely to be affected by coronavirus disease, experts say.
In 2018, an estimated 1.4 million people were living with HIV, and an estimated 23,000 Ugandans died of AIDS-related illnesses. As of 2018 around 73% of adults living with HIV and 66% of children living with HIV were assessing treatment.
Although there is no strong evidence backing the notion to what extent COVID-19 can affect persons living with HIV, experts ponder that the disease may have serious consequences on people living with HIV.
Speaking during a media science café held by the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU), the director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and MRC/LSHTM research units, Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu said although there is no proof yet, they speculate that HIV infected individuals who do not adhere to ARVs thus compromising their immune system are likely to suffer if they get infected with coronavirus disease.
UVRI, is a medical research institute owned by the government of Uganda mandated to carry out research on communicable diseases in both humans and animals, with emphasis on viral transmitted infections.
“We do not know yet if one has HIV and their immune system is not very good whether COVID-19 can have serious effect on them. But it is likely that it will be worse especially if one is not taking their drugs and the CD4 is low,” he said
“But if you are taking your drugs well and your immune system is recovered, and is good, probably the virus will not be as serious,” he added
Kaleebu who is also an HIV/AIDS researcher said the correlation between HIV/AIDS and coronavirus is an area they are going to study.
He further explained that whereas HIV affects the immune system and the CD4 cells, COVID-19 affects the cells in the gut and lungs, causing infections of the lungs and one gets problems with breathing, lungs get inflamed, oxygen becomes very low, patients who are severely ill are put on respirators, and eventually, other systems like the kidneys and heart may fail and some people go into septic shock.
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