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Determining the Relationship Between HIV and COVID-19

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California doctors make clear their stance on whether HIV makes people more susceptible to the novel coronavirus.

How COVID-19 affects people living with HIV has been a subject of vigorous debate since the pandemic exploded earlier this year. Doctors from a venerable California health organization recently made clear their stance that people with HIV are not more susceptible to the novel coronavirus than those without HIV.

“COVID itself is not particularly more virulent with people with HIV than the general population,” Dr. Jill Gover, behavioral health manager at Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, told the Desert Sun.

Dr. Christopher Foltz of Desert AIDS Project elaborated, saying that HIV-positive people who do contract COVID will likely not experience more severe symptoms than HIV-negative individuals with COVID.

“It does not really seem to make their disease much more severe than other people,” Foltz told the Sun.

COVID risks do exist for HIV-positive people with low CD4 cell counts or those not on an antiretroviral regimen. 

Desert AIDS Project has been serving HIV-positive people in the Palm Springs area since 1984, providing testing, treatment, and general health services. The organization's doctors noted a significant drop in visits since the pandemic hit in March, but staff has continued their work and added COVID testings to their list of available services.

“One out of every five people that we test for COVID is HIV-positive," Foltz said.

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Neal Broverman