The burden and characteristics of HIV-infected COVID-19 patients at a tertiary care hospital in sub-Saharan Africa—A retrospective cohort study

Alok Iyer Iyer, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya
asmit Shah, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya
Reena Shah, Aga Khan University



After the first case of COVID-19 caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the disease spread viciously throughout the world. Little is known about the impact of HIV infection on the clinical outcomes of patients co-infected with SARS-CoV-2. Studying the characteristics and outcomes of COVID-19 among HIV-positive patients is key to characterising the risk of morbidity and mortality of HIV-positive patients from COVID-19.


In this retrospective cohort study, we included patients admitted to Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection and who had consented to HIV screening. We compared the prevalence and characteristics of HIV patients with those of non-HIV patients and described the results for both groups.


In our sample of 582 patients, the mean age was 49.2 years (SD = 15.2), with 68% of the sample being men. The cumulative HIV prevalence was 3.7%, and the most common symptoms were cough (58.1%), fever (45.2%), difficulty in breathing (36.8%) and general body malaise (23.9%). The most common comorbidities included hypertension (28.5%), diabetes mellitus (26.1%), and heart disease (4.1%). Most participants (228 or 49.5%) had mild COVID-19, and the mortality rate was 5%. Overall, there were no statistically significant differences in demographic characteristics, clinical characteristics, and outcomes between HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients.


There was a 3.7% prevalence of HIV in COVID-19 positive patients. Demographic characteristics and clinical outcomes were similar between the two groups. Future studies should seek to achieve larger samples, include multiple study sites and conduct subgroup analyses based on the immunologic status of HIV-positive patients.