In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic; Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned HIV and Tuberculosis patients to exercise caution so that they do not get infected with the coronavirus.
MSF Head of Mission in Eswatini; Dr. Bernhard Kerschberger says people living with advanced HIV who have low levels of CD4 – infection-fighting cells – and high levels of HIV in their blood, or those who are not on antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to fight HIV, are likely more at risk for infections like COVID-19 in general and need to exercise caution.
On the other hand, Dr. Kerschberger says it is very likely that people with both TB and COVID-19 are also more at risk and may have poorer treatment outcomes. This is primarily due to lung damage caused by TB, which likely leaves people more at risk of severe cases of COVID-19 since that disease also targets the lungs.
“It is important that people with TB, high viral load levels of HIV, or other coinfections do all they can to avoid getting COVID-19. We are working to reduce the exposure of vulnerable patients by changing the way we treat them, what we call our “models of care,” explained the doctor.
According to statistics; nearly one-third of adults in Eswatini are HIV-positive, the highest rate in the world. The country is also severely affected by a TB epidemic, with around 70 percent of all TB patients being co-infected with HIV.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has been responding to the dual
HIV and TB epidemics in Eswatini since 2007.
” We don’t yet have much experience in treating COVID-19 infections in people with TB. Our understanding of the virus and the disease is still evolving. At the moment, there is not enough evidence to determine if COVID-19 will affect stable HIV patients with weakened immune systems differently than the general population;” explained Dr. Kerschberger.