Coronavirus misinformation on social media could cause a massive HIV drug shortage

A doctor with a mask holding a vial labeled "coronavirus"
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The Coronavirus outbreak is causing widespread global panic, which is also leading to the spread of misinformation that experts worry will cause a shortage of vital HIV medications.

Newsweek reports that Dr. Sylvie Briand, the director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness for the World Health Organization (WHO), is alarmed about an “infodemic” being spread largely through social media that HIV medications can “cure” Coronavirus.

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These rumors can be dangerous to HIV positive people who depend on these drugs, according to Dr. Briand. If too many people go out and buy them, there could be a massive shortage for people living with HIV who need them.

The rumors began after a hospital in Bangkok reported that it had successfully treated multiple Coronavirus patients using a combination of anti-HIV and flu medicines.

After the announcement, news outlets began reporting on the Thai hospital’s success. Claims that a “cure” had been found for Coronavirus began circulating on social media, but experts have worked hard to make it clear that they are still very much in the trial phase.

“The outlook is good but we still have to do more study to determine that this can be a standard treatment,” said Thai lung specialist Dr. Kriangska Atipornwanich.

“This is not the cure, but the patient’s condition has vastly improved,” he added.

Dr. Briand reaffirmed that the best methods for preventing the virus at the moment are coughing and sneezing into an elbow or tissue, frequent hand washing with soap or an alcohol-based hand rub, and staying at least three feet away from anyone who appears to be sick.

“So [there’s] a lot of concern about the availability of drugs,” Briand said. “So we are trying to address those concerns and clarify to people that we are just at the phase of clinical trials, and when we have more evidence, then we will issue a recommendation on treatments.”

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