How has COVID-19 affected Samaritan Ministry?
We started off with a normal week at the beginning of March. We had our Support Group meeting and held events as part of National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. After that, things shut down. We have been trying to stay in touch with all of our clients and provided some grocery assistance with Kroger cards to the 30+ families to whom we normally deliver at the end of the month. We have continued to try to maintain some of our important services, such as:
- communication by phone and the internet
- rent and utility assistance
- nutritional support with grocery store gift cards
The MAC AIDS Fund, one of our perennial financial supporters, has bumped up a grant cycle to impact COVID-19, and we are hopeful for a little additional funding to specifically assist our clients during this outbreak.
We have suspended in-person contacts and that has interrupted our testing program for both HIV and Hepatitis C.
How Does COVID-19 Impact People Living with HIV?
There is no direct adverse effect of this new epidemic on people living with HIV. Those that are maintaining healthy immune systems through correct use of HIV medications, are not at increased risk, although they may remain in the “immunosuppressed” group. We are not aware of any of our clients who are positive for COVID-19.
What group of people be at risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19? (CDC) (This may include those living with HIV.)
- People aged 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Other high-risk conditions could include:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have serious heart conditions
- People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
- People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
And the BIG Question: Are people with HIV at higher risk for COVID-19 than other people? – (IAS)
At the present time, we have no specific information about the risk of COVID-19 in people with HIV.
Older adults and people of any age who have a serious underlying medical condition might be at higher risk for severe illness, including people who are immunocompromised.
The risk for people with HIV getting very sick is greatest in:
- People with a low CD4 cell count, and
- People not on HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART).
- People with HIV can also be at increased risk of getting very sick with COVID-19 based on their age and other medical conditions.
The International AIDS Society (IAS) has put together a comprehensive page with multiple resources for getting COVID-19 information if you are a person living with HIV.