HIV-Positive People at Increased Risk of New Flu Strain, WHO Says
HIV-positive people worldwide are at an increased risk of the H1N1 flu strain, the World Health Organization said on Saturday in guidelines for health workers published on its Web site, Reuters India reports. According to WHO, people with immodeficiency diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, likely will be vulnerable to complications related to the flu strain, just as they are from the seasonal flu, which results in about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually. According to WHO, the H1N1 strain and HIV could prove to be a hazardous combination, similar to HIV and tuberculosis. "Although there are inadequate data to predict the impact of a possible human influenza pandemic on HIV-affected populations, interactions between HIV and A(H1N1) influenza could be significant," WHO said, adding that HIV-positive people "should be considered as a high risk and a priority population for preventive and therapeutic strategies against influenza, including emerging influenza A(H1N1) virus infection."
According to WHO, countries with high HIV/AIDS burdens, many of which are in Africa, should ensure that vulnerable people have drug access, including to medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza. The agency added that it is best if people with the flu strain take antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. In addition, there are no known issues with taking flu medications with antiretroviral drugs, according to WHO (MacInnis, Reuters India, 5/2).