Acute HIV Transmissions Rise Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Acute HIV Transmissions Rise Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

On October 23, 2020, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) published their findings that, during the period from January 1 to August 17, 2020, researchers observed a decrease in routine HIV screenings and an increase in patients with acute HIV infections seeking treatment in Chicago emergency departments, possibly out of a fear of COVID-19, according to a study presented at IDWeek 2020. The data suggest HIV screening should be included in COVID-19 testing programs.

The researchers reviewed data from thirteen healthcare centers on the south and west sides of Chicago, most of which had antibody tests available. Advanced planning by the emergency department at University of Chicago Medicine incorporated blood draws for HIV screens as part of COVID-19 evaluations. Other sites saw a significant reduction in the number of HIV screenings conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of acute HIV infections in these emergency departments was significantly higher in the first eight months of 2020 compared to the prior four years. These patients comprised more than a quarter of all new diagnoses.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected routine HIV screening in health care settings. This has serious implications, especially for patients with acute HIV infection who have symptoms suggesting COVID-19 infection. This is a high priority population that needs rapid linkage to care and would benefit from rapid initiation of antiretroviral therapy,” says David Pitrak, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine and presenting author of the research study.

IDWeek 2020 is the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP).

For more information on IDWeek, log on to For more information on this research study, contact Gavin Stephenson at [email protected].

—Reporting by Hank Trout

Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his husband Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.