The HIV pandemic provides lessons for the response to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: no vaccine is available for either and there are no licensed pharmaceuticals for COVID-19, just as there was not for HIV infection in the early years. Population behaviour will determine the pandemic trajectory of COVID-19,1 just as it did for HIV.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and HIV are, of course, different. Untreated HIV infection usually causes death; SARS-CoV-2 kills a minority. Behaviour changes that will slow transmission are different: sexual behaviour and needle sharing for HIV, physical proximity and hand washing for SARS-CoV-2. Early HIV cases doubled over 6–12 months,2 for SARS-CoV-2 the serial interval is a matter of days.1