The COVID-19 or Coronavirus outbreak has caused widespread panic all over the world. Amidst all the panic, scientists and researchers have tried to come up with a possible cure that uses HIV drugs. HIV organizations have offered advice to people living with HIV on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
HIV positive people are not at a bigger risk
Several HIV organizations have come to the conclusion that people with HIV are not more likely to get coronavirus. One such organization, Terrence Higgins Trust of UK stated:
“There’s currently no evidence that people living with HIV are any more likely to catch COVID-19 than anyone else. You should follow the advice being given to the general population. If you are on treatment, with an undetectable viral load and a good CD4 count (eg over 400), then there should be no greater risk. If you’re living with HIV and do not have an undetectable viral load or have a low CD4 count, it will be more important to avoid situations where you may get infected if the virus becomes more widespread.”
But, the organization also warned that some HIV positive people would face other health issues. HIV positive people with cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes are at greater risk from coronavirus.
Some general advice from organizations
The above-mentioned organization, THT and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) have come up with some general advice for HIV positive people:
- Like everyone, wash your hands more regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
- Put any used tissues into the bin immediately.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly your nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
- If you are unwell, avoid contact with others (touching, kissing, hugging and other intimate contact) and check the latest official advice on seeing a doctor or self-isolating.
- Use a hand-sanitizer if it is not possible to wash your hands.
The organizations have also asked people who have traveled from danger zones to stay at home and avoid contact with others.
AFAO also stated: “While there is usually no need to stock-pile shop-bought medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen, If you are taking medication, it’s a good idea to make sure you have at least one month’s supply. This is because you may need to stay at home if you feel unwell. Talk with your doctor if you need extra scripts. If you are taking PrEP (for HIV prevention) and are concerned about maintaining your three-monthly doctor’s appointments, talk to your doctor for more options.”
HIV Drugs as a possible cure
In a new turn that could be positive to some people, a man from New Jersey has credited his recovery to HIV drugs. Doctors from China, Thailand and Japan have also stated that the HIV drugs – lopinavir and ritonavir have helped patients recover. They did state, however, that these drugs worked only on a few patients with coronavirus. New Jersey’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also warned that “this is not an approved treatment for coronavirus. We have heard of some individuals with coronavirus being treated with HIV medications,” the agency said in a statement. “There is no vaccine or treatment approved to treat COVID-19.”
Yet, James Cai, the man from New Jersey swears by the above drugs and has stated that he would be a dead man if his hospital hadn’t contacted China and gained information on the HIV drugs. Cai said, “Most medical providers here don’t know about it. Medical providers need to communicate with Chinese medical teams.”
The Chinese doctors apparently recommended that Cai be treated with the antimalarial medicine chloroquine and the drug Kaletra. These are basically a combination of HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir. Cai further stated, “Chinese experts suggest to treat with medicine to slow the virus first. Don’t wait. Definitely I would not be here today [without them].”
More information about these drugs’ usage
The drugs are said to belong to the protease inhibitors class. They function by blocking a key enzyme that helps viruses replicate. Previous SARS – related studies have also shown that the same mixture helped in treating SARS patients.
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has stated that Thai doctors have used these drugs along with a drug called oseltamivir in treating a Chinese patient. The patient tested negative within two days. A similar result was seen in Japan too. A patient from Wuhan, China treated with just the two HIV drugs, also recovered. Her fever also subsided within a few days but she still had a little trouble breathing.
Foundation for AIDS Research said in a statement, “These results are encouraging [but] public health experts caution that more testing is needed before concluding that the HIV drugs can effectively treat the coronavirus.”
In the US, a few pharmaceutical companies have stated that they have started testing HIV drugs as a possible treatment. China also started a clinical trial to test the safety and usability of the drugs in treating coronavirus.