The effect of HIV co-infection on COVID-19 outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa is unknown.
We conducted a population cohort study using linked data from adults attending public sector health facilities in the Western Cape, South Africa. We used Cox-proportional hazards models adjusted for age, sex, location and comorbidities to examine the association between HIV and COVID-19 death among (i) public sector “active patients” (≥1 health visit in the 3 years before March 2020), (ii) laboratory-diagnosed COVID-19 cases and (iii) hospitalized COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests. We calculated the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for COVID-19 comparing HIV positive vs. negative adults using modelled population estimates.
Among 3,460,932 public sector patients (16% HIV positive), 22,308 were diagnosed with COVID-19, of whom 625 died. In adjusted analysis, HIV increased risk of COVID-19 mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR]:2.14; 95% confidence interval [CI]:1.70; 2.70), with similar risks across strata of viral load and immunosuppression. increased HIV-associated risk of COVID-19 death remained when restricting to COVID-19 cases (aHR:1.70; 95%CI:132; 2.18) or hospitalized cases (aHR:1.45; 95%CI:1.14; 1.84). Current and previous tuberculosis also increased COVID-19 mortality risk (aHR [95%CI]:2.70 [1.81; 4.04] and 1.51 [1.18; 1.93] respectively). The SMR for COVID-19 death associated with HIV was 2.39 (95% CI:1.96; 2.86); population attributable fraction 8.5% (95%CI:6.1; 11.1).
HIV was associated with a doubling of COVID-19 mortality risk. While our findings may over-estimate the HIV-associated risk COVID-19 death due to residual confounding, people with HIV should be considered a high-risk group for COVID-19 management.