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COVID-19: The Impact on UGA HEROs

Our organization was devastated when we had to cancel our meetings, social events, and kid events for the foreseeable future.  But as an organization who serves children and families affected by HIV/AIDS, it was the responsible decision.  

The coronavirus was first detected in China and is now found in more than 100 places around the world.  The virus was named “SARS_Cov-2” and the disease is known as “coronavirus disease 2019,” or COVID-19. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  The virus reaches people within 6 feet of each other. People can also subject themselves to the virus by touching an object that contains the virus and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Symptoms can take 2-14 days to show up after exposure, but it has been found that people can spread the virus before they show symptoms.

Anyone can find themselves infected with COVID-19, however the virus is more dangerous to certain populations.  The elderly and immunodeficient populations face the biggest risk if they contract the virus.  According to The Everett Clinic, immunodeficient people’s immune systems fail to protect the body from infection.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) severely affects the human immune system.  It is a life-long disease that spreads through certain body fluids and attacks the body’s CD4 cells, also known as T-cells.  HIV destroys many of these cells which keep the body from fighting off infection and disease.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most severe phase of HIV.  A person has AIDS once their T-cell count drops below 200.

Initially, people thought COVID-19 was just a strand of the flu, but COVID-19 is a novel virus.  This means that people have never been exposed to it before, so no one has immunity. This helps spark the exponential spread of the disease.  

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, which is a global outbreak of disease.  Pandemics occur when a new virus emerges and spreads between people sustainably.  This is the first pandemic known to be caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus.

According to medical writer and editor Liz Highleyman, data about COVID-19 and its effect on people with HIV does not exist yet, but the risk of contracting COVID-19 for people with HIV is elevated if they lack consistent access to their HIV medicine.

Among people living with HIV, the risk is greater for those with lower T-Cell counts and those who are not on antiretroviral therapy, said Dr. John Brooks of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

One of the strategies taken to lessen the spread and impact of COVID-19 is closing businesses and restaurants, causing many people to lose their jobs.  People around the world are suffering financially from these efforts. Antiretroviral medication exists for people with HIV that helps them manage their disease, but these medications are very expensive.  People with HIV who find themselves temporarily unemployed can struggle to pay for their medicine which puts them in a high risk position with COVID-19.

96% of the families UGA HEROs serve live on incomes of less than $10,000.  With so many people losing their jobs, this puts more financial stress on our families to afford their antiretroviral medication.  

Sources in the healthcare field said that people can help the immunodeficient population by practicing social distancing.  Social distancing stops or slows down the spread of a contagious disease.  Measures include limiting large gatherings, closing buildings and canceling events.

According to the Santa Clara Valley public health department, pandemics cannot stop once they start but social distancing measures help slow the spread in order for communities to prepare themselves.

Our organization encourages all people to participate in these preventative measures.  We may have canceled all upcoming events, but UGA HEROs is not canceled. Keep an eye out for our digital content as we come up with new ways to fundraise and connect with our kids.  So stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you next semester.

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