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HIV and Coronavirus (Covid-19)

What is HIV and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a kind of virus that attacks the immune system, causing it to weaken and trigger a life-threatening medical condition known as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). If not treated, the virus could be responsible for the appearance of several opportunistic infections that harm the body, which include pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

HIV is transmitted through several ways, such as engaging in unprotected sexual activity, using shared needles and syringes that may be contaminated with the virus, and mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, labour, and breastfeeding. The initial symptoms of HIV are considered to be flu-like, including fever, headache, cough, colds, mouth ulcers, sore throat, and muscle pain.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is a highly contagious disease that targets the respiratory system. It is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Wuhan, China, dated back in December 2019. Since then, the disease has spread worldwide even until today, becoming a global pandemic.

COVID-19 is transmitted through close contact with someone who has the virus. The infection happens when a person is exposed to respiratory droplets (through sneezing, coughing, singing, talking, or even breathing) of a COVID-19 positive individual. Its symptoms include (1) cough, (2) fever, (3) shortness of breath, (4) fatigue, and (5) loss of sense of taste and smell. Some people do not experience these symptoms, thus, tagging them as asymptomatic.

How is COVID-19 Associated with HIV?

People who easily get infected by COVID-19 are those who have underlying medical conditions. This is especially true as the infection gradually weakens the respiratory system, causing diseases (such as pneumonia and other inflammatory syndromes) to emerge. According to several studies conducted, people with HIV have a high risk of dying because of COVID-19. Note that as HIV infection has rapidly damaged the immune system, and once the body has acquired a new infection, being COVID-19, it is nearly impossible to get immediate treatment and urgent medical care.

Additionally, HIV-positive individuals could develop several health problems if no treatment is being performed towards them. This increases the risk since COVID-19 can propel these medical conditions and cause more complications to the body. To avoid serious health dilemmas, HIV-positive individuals must still adhere to the preventive measures provided and keep themselves protected from COVID-19.

Who are at risk for COVID-19?

Almost everyone, regardless of age, can be infected by COVID-19. But the most common are older adults and those who have underlying health conditions. People ages 65 and older are at high risk of getting COVID-19. In fact, in the United States, there has been a propelling rate of 80%, totalling all the deaths caused by the said infection or disease. Aside from this event, there are chronic or long-term illnesses that may be associated and affected severely by COVID-19. These are as follows:

  • Lung problems – COVID-19 mainly attacks the lungs, with severe symptoms should you have pre-existing lung problems. Other conditions that may be propelled to its severe stage primarily caused by COVID-19 are asthma, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and COPD.
  • Weakened immune system – A weakened immune system becomes incapable of fighting illnesses. One of the infections that weakens the body’s immune system is HIV. Should you be infected by COVID-19, add to that the existence of HIV in the body, it is nearly impossible to recover.
  • Heart disease – For someone who has been living with heart disease, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 is high. Taking the medication regularly and avoiding the general public as a precautionary measure for preventing COVID-19 are highly recommended.
  • Obesity and diabetes – Both of these illnesses can fail the immune system. Once exposed to COVID-19, it is difficult to treat the mentioned illnesses by merely taking the prescribed medication. This explains why following the safety guidelines set by the WHO is a prerequisite.

COVID-19 Vaccination for People with HIV

Clinical trials have included people with HIV in developing a vaccine. This being said, all the vaccines produced are safe for the general public, whether you have HIV or not. However, for those who have known hypersensitivity to any ingredients of the vaccine, a doctor’s consultation is needed before the vaccination. COVID-19 vaccine is available to all, regardless of the conditions you have. For people living with HIV, ensure that you have taken the necessary procedure before receiving your shot.

Safety Precautions for People Living with HIV

The preventive measures provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) applies to everyone. As for those individuals with HIV, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still a must. Eating healthy and nutritious food, avoiding too much stress, getting full 8 hours of sleep every night, and exercising daily are some of the safety precautions that you can follow. Furthermore, continuing with your ART treatment (if you have been taking it regularly) will help your immune system to stay healthy and functional.

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