Are those living with HIV more vulnerable to Covid-19? We do not know, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa says it does not know whether persons living with HIV are at higher risk of being more vulnerable to Covid-19.

"The answer is that we do not know. We are concerned that this is a pre-existing condition that could make people more vulnerable to the virus, so we are sounding the alarm in the region," said Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

Moeti was speaking at a virtual briefing on Covid-19 with experts on Thursday.

As of 26 March, WHO Africa has recorded 1 808 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

The highest number - 927 cases - is in South Africa, although no deaths have been reported at this stage.

READ: Coronavirus cases in SA rise to 709 as government switches focus to local transmissions

The second highest number of cases is in Algeria, with 264 confirmed cases and 17 deaths.

Burkina Faso is the third highest, with 146 confirmed cases and three deaths.

Moeti is of the view that HIV needs to be taken into account when various governments across the continent implement their interventions to minimise the spread of the deadly virus.

"Because we have a relatively high proportion in some countries of people living with HIV, some do not have access to treatment and may therefore be immune compromised. This has to be taken into account in interventions in countries," she added.

Moeti further commended countries who worked effectively to be prepared – with South Africa receiving a mention.

"I’ll start by saying that this work needs political commitment from the highest level.

"I was just watching the SABC yesterday (Wednesday), where a panel of ministers were working together on mechanisms to fight the pandemic," she said.

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