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COVID-19 Heightens Concern Among People With HIV/AIDS

Public health organizations such as the CDC report older individuals are more susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But so are those with long-term illnesses, such as people who are living with HIV/AIDS.

"There is a high risk for patients with HIV whose immunity is compromised," said Dr. Elie Saade, Medical Director of Infection Control at University Hospitals. 

He said patients are typically aware of the added risk due to regular appointments and testing. He recommends HIV patients avoid crowded places, such as public transit. But that’s not an option for people like 61-year-old Lakewood resident Robert Toth, who’s been living with HIV for 31 years.

“It’s very difficult. I’m single and I depend on public transportation because I don’t have a car," Toth said. "Something that I am working with my prescription provider is to try to get a 90-day supply of medication so that I don’t have to go to the pharmacy where people are already maybe kind of sick, and that seems to be a big hurdle.”

In the meantime, Toth said he is taking preventive measures, such as avoiding touching his face. He's also trying to keep calm.

“We need to lower our stress," he said. "I can’t worry, because that lowers your immune system, and I’m already immune-compromised enough as it is.”

Saade said a patient should ask his or her doctor if he or she has any questions about COVID-19.

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