Answers on COVID-19 and HIV medication

Answers on COVID-19 and HIV medication

The new coronavirus COVID-19 raises many questions, also concerning HIV, HIV inhibitors and PrEP. Below we answer some frequently asked questions.

This page is updated regularly, make sure you come back for the latest news. 

Are you more susceptible to the new coronavirus if you are HIV positive?

There is no evidence that you are more susceptible to COVID-19 if you have HIV (and are on treatment). In general, people with low resistance are less able to protect themselves against infections. However, in those places where HIV inhibitors are available, and people are on treatment, someone with HIV will have a well-functioning immune system. So the same health advice applies to people with HIV as to everyone. However, many individuals across communities, living with HIV and without access to medication, have a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to getting a COVID-19 infection. 


Does PrEP protect against COVID-19?

There is no evidence that PrEP prevents you from getting the coronavirus of that you will be cured faster when you have the virus while on PrEP medication. Research is currently being conducted into the effectiveness of certain HIV inhibitors in the treatment of a COVID-19 infection. However, these are not the HIV inhibitors present in PrEP. 


I use PrEP. Can I temporarily stop while I am not having sex anyway?

Yes, you can always quit PrEP and start again later. No medical intervention is required for this. Please note:

  • Use PrEP for 2 more days after the last time you had sex and then stop.
  • If you want to start again, start with 2 pills at a time. If you take only 1 pill on the first day, you are not sufficiently protected against HIV. Wait two hours after taking the PrEP before having sex again.
  • Did you have sex without a condom while not taking PrEP? In that case, you must get yourself tested for HIV before you can start using PrEP again. 


Does other HIV medication protect against the new coronavirus? 

The effectiveness of the HIV inhibitors lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra) is being researched. That effectiveness has not yet been proven.
On March 19, 2020, Chinese scientists reported that, in a study of 199 patients, they had not observed a significant effect of Kaletra on the disease course and mortality of COVID-19. At this moment, a large international study on Kaletra is being conducted which includes the participation of Dutch hospitals. 

There is no evidence that other HIV inhibitors affect the protection against or the cure of COVID-19.


Why is it that HIV medication is being investigated as a means against COVID-19?

That does not come out of the blue; HIV inhibitors have also been used against the coronavirus that causes SARS. These included the HIV inhibitors lopinavir/ritonavir in combination with an agent for Hepatitis C. However, effectiveness could not be further investigated because there were no new patients. Like HIV, coronaviruses use a so-called protease enzyme to multiply. Lopinavir/ritonavir inhibits this process in HIV, and it was thought that it would have the same effect on the coronavirus. However, it has now been demonstrated that these HIV inhibitors have no significant effect on the protection against or the cure of COVID-19.

Even though a cure for COVID-19 could still come from HIV inhibitors, other existing medication is being investigated. 


Does the new coronavirus contain HIV?

No. An analysis of the genetic code of the virus shows small similarities with HIV, but that is not surprising: "the hereditary code of the virus has about as many letters as a weekday newspaper," this article (Dutch) compares. "Not surprising, then, if by chance, there are a few words that are already in another newspaper."

More on COVID-19

Visit the Aidsfonds COVID-19 page filled with stories from communities, funding opportunities, and other sources. 

Additionally, keep yourself updated with the latest information about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the World Health Organisation or your local government. 

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