Covid-19 and HIV: When two viruses collide

Covid-19 and HIV: When two viruses collide

Covid-19 and HIV: When two viruses collide
7 MAY 2020

Nicci BothaBY: NICCI BOTHA
There are many parallels between Covid-19 and HIV/Aids. There are both highly infectious novel viruses that have which reached pandemic proportions very quickly, and, at this point, there is no vaccine against either of them. But what happens when the two viruses collide? Unlike all the other regions where coronavirus is playing out, Africa is the only arena where HIV/Aids and tuberculosis (TB) are so prevalent.

“HIV and TB gives us a certain amount of capital in dealing with Covid-19, but there are also risks, such as closing down some of the HIV and TB resources” said Mark Heywood, editor of Maverick Citizen and founding members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in a webinar entitled The Dual Epidemics: Looking at the overlapping and interweaving of HIV and Covid-19.

Although he didn’t have the exact figures at hand, Heywood said there are about 100,000 TB deaths every year because people can’t access healthcare.

“We think that people on anti-retrovirals (ARVs) will be protected from Covid-19 to the same extent as people without HIV. But we’re worried about the two-million people in South Africa not on ARVs,” he said.

“That’s why there needs to be a drive for HIV testing and getting people onto treatment. Covid-19 could do us a favour for getting people onto ARVs,” he said.

In addition, the infrastructure the country has built for HIV can be redeployed for Covid-19. This includes being able to repurpose the Gene Xpert machines brought into the country to test for HIV and TB to scale up Covid-19 testing.

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