Scientific data released by Wits University shows that HIV positive people who are not on treatment have a high risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. This is contained in the first clinical data on COVID-19 in South Africa published in special edition of the Wits Journal of Clinical Medicine.

The journal looks at various issues including treatment protocols for COVID-19 and raises a number of ethical questions for health workers in the management of coronavirus patients.

Head of Internal Medicine at Wits University Professor Pravin Manga says a study in Spain suggests that HIV positive people on treatment who contracted COVID-19 had the same outcomes as people who are HIV negative with coronavirus.

“There are small studies suggesting that if you are not on antiretroviral therapy, your outcome with influenza tends to be a little bit worse than if you are not HIV positive. So, that’s the one group that we might need to be concerned about – the HIV population that’s not on ARVs. Now, if they do get COVID-19 then the likelihood is that they may do worse but we don’t have the data.”

In the video below, Treatment Action Campaign’s Sibongile Tshabala raises concerns about HIV positive people not being able to get their medication during the lockdown: 

Diverting resources away from TB to fight against COVID-19 dangerous  

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease has warned that diverting resources away from TB programmes to the fight against COVID-19 will have devastating consequences.

The Director of TB for the Union says an estimated 400 000 children and adolescents in Africa who need TB and multidrug-resistant TB care each year will be at risk of severe illness and death.

It is estimated that one million children fall ill with TB every year and one-quarter of all people with TB in the world live in Africa.

Bridgen has called on countries not to lose focus now.

“A lot of countries in Africa have high burdens of TB and as such, it’s really important that people with TB continue to have their treatment as well as continue to find those who may have TB, but who don’t know about it yet. Additionally, with the fact that TB affects the lungs, we also want to make sure that we protect people with TB and people at risk from TB from also getting co-infection with COVID-19.”