After a woman with uncontrolled HIV had Covid-19 for 219 days, researchers are calling for HIV-positive people to receive priority for the Covid vaccination.
During the seven months that the woman was infected with Covid-19, researchers found that the virus mutated a lot.
The woman, in her mid-thirties, was hospitalised for nine days due to Covid-19. While in hospital, she took part in a study that looked at the effect of HIV infection on the immune response to Covid-19 infection.
She then tested positive for the virus nine times out of nine tests over 233 days.
This case was presented by Dr Alex Sigal, from the Africa Health Research Institute in KwaZulu-Natal, at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, which was held online on Friday.
Before this case, HIV was understood to be a comorbidity which increased the risk of hospitalisation and death with Covid-19. However, it poses much less of a threat than other comorbidities, such as diabetes.
Researchers on this case found that people with HIV will find it much harder to rid their bodies of Covid, and are likely to remain infected with it for significantly longer.
People with poor immune systems, such as those with HIV, are likely to suffer from Covid for longer.
According to Dr Sigal, Covid-19 “may mutate extensively within one person if infection persists.
“Such findings underline the need to make sure everyone living with HIV has appropriate treatment. If not, it is possible that potentially more potent variants than the ones circulating now could emerge from people whose immune systems are severely damaged,” Dr Sigal explained.
The woman was only cured of Covid-19 after her antiretroviral therapy was changed on day 190 of having the virus.
Dr Sigal says that antiretroviral therapy could be the key to preventing Covid-19 in people with advanced HIV.
He also says that if people with HIV are more likely to have Covid for an extending period of time, getting them vaccinated should be a priority.