COVID Pandemic Set Back U.S. Efforts to Fight HIV

FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Here's another casualty of the pandemic: Gains made against another scourge, HIV.

Progress made in fighting HIV/AIDS across all segments of society was eroded during the crisis, according to a report led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Equity in HIV outcomes likely worsened during the pandemic, with decreased access to necessary care," especially among minorities, said study first author Dr. Matthew Spinelli, an assistant professor in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF.

The new research looked at 2018-2021 data from almost 18,000 patients seeking care from HIV clinics in Baltimore, Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Chapel Hill, N.C., Cleveland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

Keeping blood levels of HIV suppressed is crucial to maintaining health and thwarting the advance of AIDS. However, the report found rates of adequate viral suppression dropped from 87% to 85% among Black patients over the course of the pandemic, and from 84% to 81% among another high-risk group, intravenous drug users.

The study was published Nov. 14 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Pandemic-era orders to "shelter in place" may have kept many HIV-positive Americans from accessing needed care, the researchers believe. Other patients may have found the transition from in-person to telemedicine services tough to navigate.

The simple fact of being isolated during the COVID crisis also exacerbated issues around substance abuse, loneliness and mental health, Spinelli's team believes.

The bottom line, he said in a university news release, is that “we will need to redouble our efforts in responding to the HIV epidemic to regain our momentum, with a focus on improving health equity so that no one is left behind.”

More information

Find out more about healthy living with HIV at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: University of California San Francisco, news release, Nov. 14, 2023

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