Shifting COVID-19 Concerns in the HIV Community

The risk of COVID-19 severity in people living with HIV may be less than previously anticipated.

Late-breaking data presented at the International AIDS Society (IAS) 2021 Conference on HIV Science last week showed COVID-19 severity risks were not more significantly associated with hospitalized people living with HIV.

The findings, presented by author Matthew S. Durstenfeld, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the UCSF Division of Cardiology, dissented from previously-held beliefs that people living with HIV—particularly those receiving therapy—may be at a greater risk of COVID-19 severe illness or even death due to their status.

In the second segment of an interview with Contagion during IAS 2021, Durstenfeld discussed the early-pandemic uncertainty as to whether immunosuppressed patients on antiretroviral therapy would be compromised in COVID-19 risks.

“I think now we know that’s not the case—that we can treat people living with HIV, at least in the states where the vast majority are, I think we can treat just like any other person,” Durstenfeld explained. “They don’t need a special kind of observational status while we figure that out anymore.”

Durstenfeld additionally discussed the surprising lack of data available for the team’s research.

“The fact it took us including over 21,000 people to find 220 people living with HIV is pretty remarkable and speaks to the fact if people living with HIV were hospitalized at dramatically higher rates, then we would have expected that number to be higher,” he explained.