HIV and COVID-19: Intersecting Epidemics with Many Unknowns

Catherine R. Lesko, Angela M. Bengtson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


As of July 2020, approximately 6 months into the pandemic of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), whether people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; PLWH) are disproportionately affected remains an unanswered question. Thus far, risk of COVID-19 in people with and without HIV appears similar, but data are sometimes contradictory. Some uncertainty is due to the recency of the emergence of COVID-19 and sparsity of data; some is due to imprecision about what it means for HIV to be a "risk factor"for COVID-19. Forthcoming studies on the risk of COVID-19 to PLWH should differentiate between 1) the unadjusted, excess burden of disease among PLWH to inform surveillance efforts and 2) any excess risk of COVID-19 among PLWH due to biological effects of HIV, independent of comorbidities that confound rather than mediate this effect. PLWH bear a disproportionate burden of alcohol, other drug use, and mental health disorders, as well as other structural vulnerabilities, which might increase their risk of COVID-19. In addition to any direct effects of COVID-19 on the health of PLWH, we need to understand how physical distancing restrictions affect secondary health outcomes and the need for, accessibility of, and impact of alternative modalities of providing ongoing medical, mental health, and substance use treatment that comply with physical distancing restrictions (e.g., telemedicine).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • COVID-19
  • HIV
  • engagement in care
  • mental health
  • substance use
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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