HIV+ people can be at a higher risk for coronavirus

Key population groups who are HIV positive, are likely to be at higher risk of contracting the new coronavirus respiratory disease, COVID-19, particularly if they are not on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, due to compromised immune systems and low CD4 counts. These include men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people and adolescent girls and young women.

Beyond Zero, a non-profit which delivers public health systems strengthening programmes in South Africa focussing on HIV and Aids, urges these key population groups to reduce the risk of acquiring COVID-19 and other respiratory infections by prioritising testing and treatment.

Dr Bulumko Futshane, programme director for Beyond Zero explains, “It’s even more important now to be aware of your HIV status, so we encourage you to get tested and if positive, to be initiated on ARVs. People with a stable HIV infection, that is a high CD4 count and undetectable viral load, are likely less susceptible to influenza infections. However, if an HIV-infected person has low CD4 levels or other underlying diseases, an influenza infection may be more severe. Also, the viral load may temporarily increase during a viral infection, especially if the patient is not on HIV treatment.

“Those who are on treatment need to strictly adhere to their treatment programme to ensure a better outcome should they contract coronavirus.”

Futshane also stresses coronavirus prevention by frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and sneezes by using elbow or a tissue that is discarded immediately and then wash your hands, avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes or, staying at home when ill and keeping distance from sick people with respiratory illness. 

“As winter approaches, so does flu season and these vulnerable people are encouraged to get the flu vaccine. This vaccine is especially recommended for individuals who fall into the risk groups which includes the elderly, those who are HIV positive, those with TB and pregnant women.

Beyond Zero is delivering programmes which aim at getting as many people in the key populations to get tested, begin ART and protect themselves from HIV infections through campaigns run countrywide.  Transgender people can go to #UnMuteMe clinics who provide free HIV, TB and STI screening, HIV prevention medication and condoms, HIV and  STI treatment. Men who have sex with men (MSM) will find sites for testing at #Me1st and adolescent girls and young women can seek information at #SayIt. 




Beyond Zero NPC is a registered section 21 (NPO), delivering public health systems strengthening programmes in South Africa focussing on HIV and AIDS, STI care, TB care, patient support, treatment, and prevention. Striving for a future beyond zero new HIV infections, Beyond Zero leads and provides strategic management, oversight, monitoring and evaluation on the implementation of the Global Fund grant until March 2022.

Focus areas of delivery include:

  • Prevention programmes for female adolescents and youth, in and out of school.
  • Comprehensive prevention programmes for men who have sex with other men and the transgender community.

#UnMuteMe WhatsApp 0731022892

 For further information and interviews please contact Turquoise PR:



Kaamini Reddy

Turquoise PR & Marketing Communications

C: 072 620 6146



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