Like certain health conditions including cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, new research shows that having HIV or AIDS increases a person's risk of catching and dying from COVID-19.
"Previous studies were inconclusive on whether or not HIV is a risk factor for susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and poor outcomes in populations with COVID-19," said lead researcher Dr. Paddy Ssentongo, an assistant professor at Penn State's Center for Neural Engineering.
The investigators found that people living with HIV had a 24% higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and a 78% higher risk of COVID-related death than people without HIV.
About 38 million people worldwide live with HIV or AIDS, according to the World Health Organization. Certain pre-existing conditions are common among people living with HIV/AIDS, which may contribute to the severity of their COVID-19 cases.
Among those who were HIV-positive, the most common pre-existing health conditions were high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic kidney disease.
The beneficial effects of antiviral drugs (such as protease inhibitors) in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and death from COVID-19 in people living with HIV/AIDS remain inconclusive, the study authors noted.