WORLD – According to a recently released report by the World Health organization (WHO), HIV infection is a significant independent risk factor for both severe/ critical COVID-19 presentation at hospital admission and in-hospital mortality.

It found that the risk of developing severe or fatal COVID-19 was 30% greater in people living with HIV (PLHIV) compared to people without HIV infection and nearly a quarter (23.1%) of all people living with HIV who were hospitalized with COVID-19, died.

The report is based on clinical surveillance data from 37 countries regarding the risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes in PLHIV admitted to hospital for COVID-19.

This highlights the need for PLHIV to stay as healthy as possible, regularly access and take their ARV medications and prevent and manage underlying conditions.

It also means that people living with HIV independent of their immune status should be prioritized for vaccination in most settings.

An informal WHO poll revealed that out of 100 countries with information, 40 countries have prioritized PLHIV for COVID-19 vaccination.

The analysis is informed by data from WHO’s Global Clinical Platform for COVID-19, which collects individual-level clinical data and characterizes COVID-19 among individuals hospitalized with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection around the globe.

WHO is also expected to release an updated guideline on HIV prevention, testing, treatment, service delivery and monitoring.

These guidelines will provide over 200 evidence-informed recommendations and good practice statements for a public health response to the prevention, testing, and treatment of people living with HIV.

These recommendations help to ensure that people with HIV can start and continue treatment during times of service disruption as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The report released today will have important policy implications – providing data to confirm that HIV is a risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 – and increases the urgency to see all PLHIV on treatment and with access to COVID-19 vaccinations.” said Dr. Meg Doherty, Director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes.

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed 34.7 million lives so far. To reach the new proposed global 95–95–95 targets set by UNAIDS, countries need to redouble efforts to avoid increasing HIV infections due to HIV service disruptions during COVID-19 thereby slowing down the public health response to HIV.

In more related news, the world currently has administered 3.51 billion shots of COVID vaccines and 25.6% of the world population has at received a single dose of the vaccine.

Canada has the highest vaccine distribution rate at 70% followed by Chile at 69% with most African countries being left behind in the administration process.

The slow administration rates in Africa is attributed to global inequalities, vaccine hesitancy and lack of funds.