Health matters

LGBTQ groups demand Congress do more to protect HIV+ people from threat of COVID-19

AIDS United and 90 leading HIV and LGBTQ organizations in the US, including GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, Whitman-Walker Health and The AIDS Institute have sent a letter to every member of Congress reminding them not to overlook the threat posed by coronavirus to those with HIV.

If you are HIV positive, on treatment and have an undetectable viral, it’s believed that COVID-19 should pose no greater threat than it does to those who are HIV-negative.

However, this can be complicated by other factors. For example, long-term HIV survivors may have other health complications or may have suffered lung damage or other ill-health prior to beginning their treatment.

Another concern is that only an estimated 53% of those are are HIV positive in the US are HIV undetectable. By contrast, in the UK, over 90% of those with HIV are diagnosed and HIV undetectable.

Related: LGBTQ people at heightened risk from coronavirus, warn advocacy groups

The letter calls on federal lawmakers to address the unique needs of people living with HIV to ensure their continued safety, health, and well-being.

“Many people living with HIV are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect them and the communities they call home,” states the letter.

“The populations most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 — including death — are older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions, including compromised immune systems.”

It goes on to point out, “Given that only 53% of people living with HIV in the United States have an undetectable viral load3 and that 60% of the people living with HIV in the United States are age 50 or older, a large swath of the U.S. population living with HIV is at great risk during the rapid spread of COVID-19.”

It says, “When crafting a relief package in response to COVID-19, Congress must take into account the unique needs of people living with HIV to ensure their continued safety, health, and well-being.”

This includes ensuring accommodation and food security.

The organizations say they support the current relief package proposed in the US House of Representatives, but that it doesn’t go far enough. It then lists over a dozen additional considerations.

These include: “Waivers of refill limits on maintenance drugs, inclusive of antiretrovirals, for people with chronic conditions like HIV and hepatitis”; “Rental and mortgage assistance for workers whose income streams are diminished or eliminated by mandatory closures”; and a “Commitment to free access to treatment and vaccination, once identified.”

It concludes, “The continued safety, health, and well-being of everyone in the United States, especially those living with HIV, rests in the hands of a comprehensive response, and the time to act is now.”

Related: Girl who licked toilet seat in “coronavirus challenge” insists she’s protected because she’s on PrEP

HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men.

All sexually active gay men are advised to have a full sexual health checkup, including an HIV test, at least once a year, or more often if they have multiple partners.

If you’ve never had an HIV test, or it’s been a long time since your last one, the spread coronavirus is yet another reason to get tested and know your status.