SARS Death Rate Could Be Higher Among HIV-Positive Populations, Especially Chinese ‘AIDS Villages’
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, could increase the death rate among patients whose immune systems are already weakened by HIV infection, Agence France-Presse reports. The "pneumonia-like" SARS could decimate so-called "AIDS villages" in 23 Chinese provinces, where high concentrations of HIV-positive residents live, according to Agence France-Presse. Ray Yip, head of AIDS prevention for the UNICEF China office, said, "If SARS hits HIV areas, that will decimate all the people who are HIV-positive right away." He added, "Any (illness) can be exaggerated in these people. It will kill them." Hu Jia, executive director of the Beijing-based AIDS prevention group Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, said, "The death rate from SARS now is 4%, but if it gets to AIDS villages, it could be at least 30% to 40%." Thus far, no SARS cases have been reported in the AIDS villages, but that "does not mean there are no cases," Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 4/23). Luc Montagnier, the French scientist who co-discovered HIV and who serves as president of the UNESCO-supported World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, on Monday at a press conference in Tokyo said, "SARS is caused by [a different virus from HIV], and it does not kill lots of people. ... But if the immune system is depressed by AIDS, the toll would be much higher." He added, "It would be very alarming if people would be infected with both SARS and AIDS. ... It is a concern especially for southern China where you have both AIDS infection ongoing and SARS starting" (Agence France-Presse, 4/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.