The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society has released a position statement on COVID-19 and persons with HIV.
At the moment, very little is known about the interaction between HIV and COVID-19. Nonetheless, some reasonable assumptions based on experience with other infections, such as influenza, can be made with regard to immune suppressed individuals. The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society has published recommendations for healthcare providers.
Adherence to antiretroviral treatment is necessary for the treatment of HIV infection. Interruptions in therapy may result in viral resistance and ultimately lead to the development of opportunistic infections. At present, individuals with HIV infection both in the public and private health care system have to attend monthly clinic or pharmacy visits to pick up their prescriptions, and in the case of stable patients registered on the Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) programme, this is bimonthly.
With over 5m South Africans on antiretroviral therapy, this represents a large number of people, often in good health coming to health care facilities and pharmacies. We, as HIV clinicians have advocated for some time for multi-month dispensing to assist both HIV-infected individuals and health care providers.
Community spread of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is imminent. We have never had to face a pandemic of this scale and scope and every effort should be made to respond with innovative measures to reduce the impact on the entire healthcare infrastructure and allow it to provide services to all in need of healthcare.
To protect both the clinic staff and the HIV-infected individuals, we would strongly advocate for up to 6 monthly supplies of antiretroviral treatment to be issued as soon as possible to minimise time at health care facilities, to minimise the exposure of patients during travel to and from clinics or pharmacies, as well as to minimise the number of patients presenting in clinic facilities. This will also reduce the possibility of treatment interruption as travel restrictions are part of the national response.
The US Department of Health and Human Sciences has released an interim guidance for COVID-19 and persons with HIV.
The guidance reviews special considerations for persons with HIV and their health care providers in the US regarding COVID-19. Information and data on COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. This guidance includes general information to consider. Clinicians should refer to updated sources for more specific recommendations regarding COVID-19.Southern African HIV Clinicians Society material Southern African HIV Clinicians Society material Guidance