Special Reports:

Our HIV reporting of the past decade

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A large chunk of our reporting focuses on HIV. Since the launch of Bhekisisa in 2013, we’ve covered HIV in-depth — from the impact of the virus on former president Nelson Mandela’s family to the advances in antiretroviral treatment and anti-HIV pills and injections. We’ve also looked at the impact of inequality and discrimination on the spread of HIV, the link between gender-based violence and HIV — and ways to fix it.

HomeResourcesGeneral resourcesWhat does COVID-19 mean for people with HIV and TB? Check out...

What does COVID-19 mean for people with HIV and TB? Check out the data

Plus, why new, simpler TB prevention medication couldn’t come at a better time for South Africa. Check out these resources from our latest webinar.

Resource details:

Presentation title: Western Cape — COVID-19 and HIV / Tuberculosis 

Author(s): Mary-Ann Davies on behalf of the Western Cape Department of Health

Publication date: 9 June 2020

What the presentation is about:

Until now, there has been no large-scale public data on how COVID-19 would impact people living with HIV or tuberculosis (TB). This presentation summarises an analysis of 12 987 COVID-19 cases in the Western Cape’s public sector, including 435 deaths. Although not a formal study, the research found that people with TB or HIV have a two to three-fold increased risk of dying of COVID-19. 

Key take-aways from the presentation:

  • Risk of death increased sharply for those 50 years and older.
  • Preliminary data showed virtually no difference in the risk of dying from COVID-19 between HIV-positive people who were virally suppressed and those who were not. However, the Western Cape has relatively few HIV-positive patients on treatment who are not virally suppressed, Davies cautioned.
  • Almost all people living with HIV who died of COVID-19 had other underlying health conditions such as diabetes that put them at an increased risk of death. However, Davies in an interview with Bhekisisa said her team accounted for this when calculating the risk of COVID-19 death attributable solely to HIV 
  • The analysis confirmed that previous research that showed people with diabetes and high blood pressure are at an increased risk of death.
  • More than half of COVID-19 deaths in the sample were among people living with diabetes.
  • The risk of death from COVID-19 among people with diabetes was highest in those whose blood sugar levels were uncontrolled. Diabetics with well-managed blood sugar levels were much less likely to die than those whose levels were poorly controlled. The analysis did not differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but Davies suggests that the sample was most likely made up mainly of those with type 2 diabetes.

You can find and download the presentation here.

Presentation title: COVID-19 and TB preventive therapy: The time to scale up 3HP is now 

Author(s): Gavin Churchyard, CEO The Aurum Institute 

Publication date: 9 June 2020

What the presentation is about:

The presentation summarises the likely impacts of COVID-19 and related control measures such as national lockdowns that are expected to decrease the number of tuberculosis (TB) cases diagnosed and, in turn, lead to an increase in TB cases as well as deaths. In July, South Africa plans to begin rolling out a once a week drug combo of TB drugs rifapentine and isoniazid that when taken for three months can prevent TB. This preventive treatment is called 3HP for short. 

Key take-aways from the presentation:

  • TB patients are more at risk of developing TB, and conversely, COVID-19 may worsen TB treatment outcomes and recoveries.
  • COVID-19 is expected to reduce the number of TB tests conducted and patients treated. It is also assumed that it will decrease the number of people who started on preventive TB therapy.
  • 3HP will be available in South Africa in four districts supported by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria in four provinces.
  • The country hopes to start one-million people on 3HP.
  • In 2021, 3HP provision will be scaled up to include 23 districts in South Africa.

You can find and download the presentation here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the Department of Health for the latest information. Visit for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]

[12:05pm 12 June 2020: This post was updated to include more information on underlying health conditions among HIV-positive people who died of COVID-19.]

Laura Lopez Gonzalez is a freelance health journalist and editor. She was Bhekisisa's news editor then deputy editor between 2016 and 2020.