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Current HIV Research


ISSN (Print): 1570-162X
ISSN (Online): 1873-4251

Research Article

Changing Characteristics of Patients Living with HIV/AIDS After the COVID-19 Pandemic in Turkey

Author(s): Hayat Kumbasar Karaosmanoglu*, Birgul Mete, Alper Gunduz, Dilek Yildiz Sevgi, Ozlem Altuntas Aydin, Ilyas Dokmetas and Fehmi Tabak

Volume 20, Issue 3, 2022

Published on: 28 June, 2022

Page: [236 - 241] Pages: 6

DOI: 10.2174/1570162X20666220303103805

Price: $65


Aims: The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially changed lives and presented several barriers to health services. HIV care continuum needs a high rate of diagnosis, effective treatment, and sustained suppression of viral replication. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected these three steps of HIV care. This study investigated the characteristics of newly diagnosed patients living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) during the COVID pandemic and compared them with those before the pandemic.

Methods: All newly diagnosed patients in three HIV healthcare centers, in Istanbul, Turkey, were included in the study. The pandemic period included April 1, 2020, to April 1, 2021, and the prepandemic period included March 1, 2019, to March 1, 2020.

Results: 756 patients were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. In the pandemic period, this figure was 58% less: 315. Patients in the pre-pandemic and pandemic period had comparable age and gender distributions. PLWH diagnosed in the pandemic period had higher rates of low CD4 cells: low CD4 (<350 cells /mm3) was measured in 243 (36.4%) patients in the pre-pandemic period, while it was done in 126 (47.9%) in the pandemic period (p<0.01). Also, the distribution of CD4 cells was significantly different between periods: In the pandemic period, CD4 cell distribution significantly skewed to lower CD4 categories. Symptomatic patient rates and AIDS-defining disorder rates among symptomatic patients were comparable. Viral loads were not significantly different in the two periods.

Conclusion: A low number of newly diagnosed PLWH can be explained by less HIV testing, less admission to health care, or an actual decrease of HIV prevalence during the pandemic. Sexual behaviors may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to HIV transmission restriction. Lower CD4 counts among the newly diagnosed PLWH suggest that admittance to health care is late and a significant portion of PLWH remain undiagnosed.

Keywords: HIV, AIDS, patients living with HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, men having sex with men, antiretroviral therapy.

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