Within half a century, the world has experienced two elusive and deadly viral diseases responsible for pandemics. While there are many similarities between the ongoing HIV pandemic and the current pandemic resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection, there are also noticeable differences.
In this article, we discuss the SARS-CoV-2 and HIV viruses, the similarities and differences of the illnesses and their pandemics, and future outlooks.
HIV attacks a person’s immune system, rendering their bodies unable to fight off illnesses. Left untreated, a person with HIV can
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infection caused by a novel strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). People with COVID-19 can develop
HIV is a Lentivirus, which is a genus of
HIV attacks the immune system by infecting immune cells called CD4 cells. After infecting these immune cells, HIV uses it to
SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that comes from a large family of viruses called
Some types of coronavirus cause the common cold. But these are different from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
While illness due to SARS-CoV-2 may often be mild to moderate, in some cases people can become seriously ill. COVID-19 can affect organ systems
SARS-CoV-2 is primarily an airborne infection, meaning the virus may be
During the early days of both pandemics, aside from shock, most of the world’s governments responded with denial, downplaying, delayed responses, and neglect. Both pandemics have instilled great fear in the population, caused disruption of everyday life, and led to the deaths of many people.
Another similarity is the necessity of public participation in reducing transmission.
With COVID-19, limiting spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus largely depends on people following guidance and protocols. These
Similarly, testing and other protocols exist to reduce HIV transmission. People with HIV, or those who suspect exposure to the virus, test for an infection and receive treatment to lower their viral load to reduce symptoms and the risk of transmission.
Behaviors such as condom use and using new, unshared syringes can also reduce transmission.
COVID-19 remains a major global health issue. Similarly, despite the world adopting the World Health Organization’s (WHO)
A significant difference between the two pandemics is their timelines. While positive cases and deaths from HIV and AIDS continue worldwide, the spread of HIV since its discovery in the 1980s is slow compared with COVID-19’s millions of cases and deaths since its recognition in late
Also, while there are already several successful vaccines that help protect against severe outcomes with COVID-19, there is still no success in creating a vaccine for HIV or AIDS. However, medications are available that can treat HIV effectively and prevent people from transmitting or contracting it.
Both viruses can spread from people who unknowingly have the infection but present with no symptoms. However, while HIV is
In comparison, the
If a person is fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications and their other symptoms are improving, they can leave isolation after 6 days. After ending isolation, should continue to wear a high-quality mask indoors until 11 days after symptoms began.
However, some people may need to isolate for longer based on factors such as the severity of the COVID-19 infection and whether a person is immunocompromised.
One stark difference between the two viruses is that SARS-CoV-2 is very easily transmittable due to it being an airborne infection, whereas HIV transmission relies on contact with bodily fluids that contain the virus.
Based on the WHO’s coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard, there have been over 750 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, including nearly 7 million deaths due to the disease.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of the HIV pandemic, there has been almost
A 2021 review mentions that more than
There are currently no effective cures for the illnesses caused by either virus. However, treatments to reduce symptom severity and strategies to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission exist.
In some cases, people may be able to manage and relieve mild symptoms of COVID-19 at home.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued
- stay up-to-date with vaccines and boosters
- improve airflow and ventilation
- test for COVID-19 when a person has symptoms
- if a person develops symptoms, follow
protocolsincluding isolating at home and wearing a mask indoors after ending isolation
- if a person may have been exposed to the virus, follow
protocolsincluding wearing a mask indoors and monitoring for symptoms
- stay home when sick
- follow additional measures based on community levels and personal risk
With access to effective treatment, HIV is a manageable condition to live with and people with HIV live full, healthy lives. Individuals with HIV receive antiretroviral therapies (ART), which are treatment regimens consisting of two or more drugs that suppress the virus from replicating.
This can help a person to
Preventive measures are still in place to prevent the spread of both viruses. The
- modifying sexual practices, including condom use
- use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
- use of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
- no needle sharing
- testing for and treating HIV
COVID-19 vaccine rollouts are continuing across the globe. Based on Our World in Data, roughly 70% of the world population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, there is still a disparity between wealthy and low income countries when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Currently, only about 30% of people in low income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, there are
Meanwhile, due to the nature of HIV, it is more difficult to develop an effective vaccine. However, research is ongoing. Currently, research efforts include a late-stage, multinational vaccine clinical trial called
Additionally, researchers are working on developing broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNabs), which may be able to stop a wide range of HIV strains. A 2020 study suggests the potential of using adeno-associated viruses and monkeys to produce monoclonal antibodies that may offer lifelong protection against HIV.
COVID-19 and HIV are diseases caused by two contagious viruses that are responsible for global pandemics. The viruses share certain similarities like their origin, but they also have stark differences in their symptoms, mode of transmission, and disease course.
Due to these differences, public health measures vary in the preventive measures they employ. At present, there are no vaccines against HIV, but treatment options exist that can help prevent transmission. As for COVID-19, safe and effective vaccines are available that can reduce symptom severity and help reduce transmission.