amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

When Two Pandemics Converge

amfAR-Sponsored Congressional Briefing Examines H1N1 and HIV/AIDS


December 14, 2009—Leading public health experts gathered on December 11, 2009, for an amfAR-sponsored Congressional briefing on the implications of H1N1 influenza for people living with HIV/AIDS. The panelists discussed vaccination and treatment for H1N1 in HIV-positive people, as well as the need for more research on the impact of this strain of flu among people with HIV/AIDS.

“This Capitol Hill briefing is the first to explore the health complications arising from the convergence of the HIV/AIDS and H1N1 pandemics. Both diseases have infected millions of people worldwide, yet there is a paucity of data about the implications of this novel influenza for HIV positive people in the industrialized and developing world. Increasing knowledge about their interaction may lead to improved prevention and treatment strategies,” said amfAR’s senior medical and policy advisor Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, who moderated the panel discussion.

“Infectious diseases have been the leading killers of people throughout history and we must remain vigilant against them. More research is needed on the convergence of these two pandemics as well as the implications for public policy,” she emphasized.

While early data suggest that HIV-positive individuals may be at no greater risk for H1N1 infection than the general population, they may experience more severe complications and death from the flu, if their CD4 count is low or if they have AIDS. Clinical trials have been recently launched to determine the most effective dosage of the H1N1 vaccine in HIV-positive children, youth, pregnant women, and other adults who are at high risk of flu complications. Along with enhanced research on H1N1 and HIV, amfAR is calling for the development of more sensitive rapid flu tests to be used in clinical and community-based settings, and new methods of vaccine production that can speed the production of large quantities of safe and effective vaccines to protect people, including those living with HIV/AIDS, from pandemic flu.

For now, people living with HIV/AIDS should continue taking antiretroviral therapy as prescribed and get both seasonal and H1N1 flu shots.

Panelists at the briefing included John T. Brooks, M.D., leader of the clinical epidemiology team at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention; Sharon Nachman, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious diseases and associate dean for research at SUNY Stony Brook; Adriana Weinberg, M.D., professor of pediatrics, medicine, and pathology, and director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at University of Colorado Denver; and former Ambassador John E. Lange, senior program officer for developing-country policy and advocacy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

At the briefing, amfAR released a comprehensive new fact sheet, 2009 H1N1 Flu and HIV/AIDS: What You Need to Know, which can be downloaded by clicking here

Click here to view slides from Dr. Brooks’s presentation (200 kb) and here for Dr. Weinberg’s presentation (4 mb).

Click here to hear a podcast with Dr. Blumenthal about HIV and H1N1 on AIDS.GOV.