From my experience and preliminary investigations, I do not think that there are higher rates of COVID-19 infection among people living with HIV than the general population. I am conducting a survey of COVID-19 among people living with HIV in Wuhan and hopefully, we will publish the results soon.
During the outbreak, three of the people living with HIV who I was treating acquired COVID-19. But, unfortunately, I also saw some people living with HIV with COVID-19 in other hospitals developing acute respiratory distress syndrome and dying.
On 25 January, one of my patients living with HIV came to my department with his parents because he had a severe headache. I had been treating him for cryptococcus meningitis for three months. We managed to get the meningitis under control, but then he stopped using the prophylactic medicine (fluconazole). I knew that the cryptococcus meningitis had come back when he started having headaches again. Without treatment, he would likely die. But my hospital was focusing only on COVID-19 patients and I did not have a bed for him.
I reached out to other hospitals outside Wuhan, but due to the lockdown, my patient was not allowed to leave Wuhan. His father was anxious and felt helpless. This was the most difficult moment in my life. I thought: “I could save him, and if I refuse him, he will likely die.” I spoke with the management in my hospital and they agreed to admit him. He was put into the safe area. I was happy that thanks to the treatment, he recovered.
The most important lesson to learn from the COVID-19 outbreak linked to people living with HIV is that we should have a plan so that we are prepared to respond in exceptional situations that can affect people living with HIV worldwide, such as natural disaster and plague.
The message I would like to send to people living with HIV is that they do not need to panic. No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. If you follow the preventative measures (such as wearing a mask and washing hands), the chances of getting infected by COVID-19 are much lower.