World Aids Day symposium raises awareness for how COVID-19 affects those with HIV

Dept. of Health seeing decrease of HIV testing during pandemic

LYNCHBURG, Va. – COVID-19 has affected so many this year, including those with HIV-related illnesses. On this World Aids Day, a virtual event raised awareness for those who are diagnosed and the importance of being tested.

The symposium -- held via Zoom -- was sponsored by Horizon Behavioral Health and the Coalition for HIV Awareness and Prevention (CHAP).

It brought together experts to discuss how COVID-19 affects those with HIV.

Jenny Calhoun, one of the panelists and a nurse consultant with the Virginia Department of Health, said they’ve changed access to care and medication.

“That includes telehealth. It may include using mail delivery for medications. We’ve increased the number of months of medications that people can get,” Calhoun said.

VDH says more than 25,000 Virginians are living with HIV.

“They don’t have any increased risk [of being infected with COVID-19] compared to somebody who doesn’t have HIV. The bigger concern would be for someone who is not undetectable, or doesn’t know they have HIV, or they’re not in care, especially if they have any other preexisting, underlying conditions,” Calhoun said.

VDH has seen a decrease in HIV testing during COVID, so they’re making home-testing kits available.

“That’s helped to some degree, but definitely not to the same numbers of what we were testing before COVID,” Calhoun said, adding that you should call the VDH disease prevention hotline if you wish to get tested.

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