Risk Factors for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Death in a Population Cohort Study from the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 5;73(7):e2005-e2015. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1198.


Background: Risk factors for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) death in sub-Saharan Africa and the effects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis on COVID-19 outcomes are unknown.

Methods: We conducted a population cohort study using linked data from adults attending public-sector health facilities in the Western Cape, South Africa. We used Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for age, sex, location, and comorbidities, to examine the associations between HIV, tuberculosis, and COVID-19 death from 1 March to 9 June 2020 among (1) public-sector "active patients" (≥1 visit in the 3 years before March 2020); (2) laboratory-diagnosed COVID-19 cases; and (3) hospitalized COVID-19 cases. We calculated the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for COVID-19, comparing adults living with and without HIV using modeled population estimates.

Results: Among 3 460 932 patients (16% living with HIV), 22 308 were diagnosed with COVID-19, of whom 625 died. COVID-19 death was associated with male sex, increasing age, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. HIV was associated with COVID-19 mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.14; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.70-2.70), with similar risks across strata of viral loads and immunosuppression. Current and previous diagnoses of tuberculosis were associated with COVID-19 death (aHR, 2.70 [95% CI, 1.81-4.04] and 1.51 [95% CI, 1.18-1.93], respectively). The SMR for COVID-19 death associated with HIV was 2.39 (95% CI, 1.96-2.86); population attributable fraction 8.5% (95% CI, 6.1-11.1).

Conclusions: While our findings may overestimate HIV- and tuberculosis-associated COVID-19 mortality risks due to residual confounding, both living with HIV and having current tuberculosis were independently associated with increased COVID-19 mortality. The associations between age, sex, and other comorbidities and COVID-19 mortality were similar to those in other settings.

Keywords: COVID-19; HIV; antiretroviral; sub-Saharan Africa; tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Cohort Studies
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • South Africa / epidemiology