Empirical data on the consequences of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on HIV care are lacking. We surveyed people living with HIV (PLWH) in different countries to investigate whether their medical follow-up and psychosocial well-being had been compromised due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions.
In April 2020, a cross-sectional survey among PLWH was conducted using a web-based multilingual questionnaire. The research tool assessed HIV follow-up, psychosocial well-being, COVID-19 (flu-like) symptoms and prevention measures. Consenting respondents provided answers anonymously.
Three hundred seventeen PLWH were included (mean age 43.4 ± 11.7; 71.6% men); 60.3% of participants resided in Belgium and Brazil. One hundred forty (44.2%) reported experiencing a cold with at least one flu-like symptom since January 2020. Of the 18 who reported COVID-19 test results, 4 (22.2%) were positive. Seventy-four (23.3%) respondents screened positive for major depressive disorders, whereas 72 (22.7%) had generalized anxiety disorders. Fifty-six (17.7%) respondents reported difficulties in obtaining antiretroviral medications because of COVID-19–related measures. Adaptations of HIV care during the COVID-19 outbreak included greater quantities of antiretroviral refill in 67 (21.1%), phone consultations in 25 (7.9%), and new refill sites in 12 (3.9%). Factors associated with a reduced risk of experiencing flu-like symptoms included flu vaccination during the past 12 months (P = 0.005) and adaptations of HIV care during the COVID-19 pandemic (P = 0.010).
COVID-19 and associated restrictive measures seem detrimental to the well-being and follow-up of PLWH. We recommend that health systems devise innovative approaches for antiretroviral provision and psychosocial support to PLWH during such outbreaks.