Fauci: No clear evidence HIV heightens coronavirus risk

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Anthony Fauci, gay news, Washington Blade
Dr. Anthony Fauci (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said it remains unclear whether people with HIV are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“The
story is not yet completely out in individuals with HIV,” he said during a
panel that took place on the final day of the 2020 International AIDS Conference.
“Those with HIV that’s not controlled in the sense of controlled viremia
as opposed to those with good control. That knowledge store is still evolving.”

Fauci in
his presentation also said there is a “significant issue” in the U.S.
“with a disproportionate disparity or serious illness among our minority
population” with Black people, Latinos and Native Americans most impacted.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force,
echoed Fauci in her own remarks during the panel.

“This
is like HIV and that there are specific vulnerable groups, either by race,
ethnicity or their relationship in poverty,” she said.

Both Birx
and Fauci said hypertension, diabetes and obesity are among the underlying
health issues that make people more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Dr. Sarah Henn, chief medical officer at Whitman-Walker Health in D.C., told the Washington Blade in March that older people with underlying medical conditions and those who have chronic illnesses are most vulnerable to the pandemic. Immigration Equality and other advocacy groups have also said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees with HIV are also at risk.

“When I think of people
who are at increased risk or high risk for coronavirus I think of people who
are significantly immunosuppressed,” Henn told the Blade. “I think of people
who are going through cancer chemotherapy, people who are immunosuppressed with
medications with a history of organ transplants, and people with a very low CD4
count and uncontrolled HIV and AIDS.”

Fauci: U.S. in midst of ‘very serious problem’

The International AIDS
Conference was to have taken place this week in San Francisco and Oakland,
Calif., but it happened virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University
of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are more than 3.2
million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. Their statistics also indicate
the pandemic has killed 134,729 people in this country.

The New York Times reported
there were 68,241 new coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. on Friday.

Birx noted four states —
Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — account for 50 percent of new
coronavirus cases in the country. She also said positive test rates in Houston
and Phoenix are higher than 20 percent.

“In the United States we have increased number of cases over the … particularly past three weeks,” said Birx. “We have not seen this result in increased mortality but that is expected as the disease continues to spread in some of our large metro areas where co-morbidities exist.”

Fauci also said upwards of 45 percent of people with
confirmed coronavirus cases are asymptomatic.

“There is transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic
individuals to unaffected individuals, which clearly complicates greatly
attempts at contract tracing and isolation,” he said.

The Trump administration’s response to the pandemic
has been widely criticized, but Birx stressed the U.S. has “worked hard to
expand testing.” Birx also said efforts to combat the virus in this
country remain largely focused on the state and local level.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is a close
Trump ally, is among the governors who continue to face sharp criticism over
their response to the pandemic.

“The United States is a state-by-state,
county-by-county and that’s the way we’ve made our response, very much looking
at a very granular level and then working with the governors and the mayors to
have a very specific and tailored response for each of these areas,” said
Birx.

Fauci, like Birx, acknowledged the pandemic is far
from under control in the U.S.

“My own country, the United States … is in the
middle right now, even as we speak, of a very serious problem,” said
Fauci.

Published at Sun, 12 Jul 2020 01:14:08 +0000