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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and HIV

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FAST FACTS

  • People living with HIV and on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) are currently not at an increased risk of getting coronavirus, or developing severe symptoms.
  • People living with HIV not on treatment or virally suppressed may be at a greater risk. Speak to a healthcare professional for more information on how to stay healthy.
  • As with the general population, older people living with HIV and those with other underlying health conditions should take extra precautions to prevent illness.
  • Try to have at least a 30 days’ supply of ART in your home. If possible, ask for three months.
  • As more people become infected with coronavirus, we will learn more about how it behaves. Remember to keep in touch with your healthcare provider and advice from your government.   

We have received lots of questions about how COVID-19 may affect people living with HIV. Here we go through some key facts.

There is currently no evidence to show that people living with HIV are more likely to get SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, also known as coronavirus 2019. There is also no evidence to suggest that people living with HIV are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 should they get the virus.

While the data is not yet available, because the virus acts like other types of illnesses, researchers can speculate with confidence that the risk of severe COVID-19 may be greater in people who are not on antiretroviral treatment and are not immunosuppressed. This includes people with low CD4 counts or who are not virally suppressed.

If you are not currently on antiretroviral treatment, talk to your healthcare professional about starting it.

If you are older or have another underlying health condition – such as diabetes, a chronic lung condition, heart disease or hypertension – you may be at an increased risk of severe COVID-19, just like the general population. Make sure you follow any specific advice provided by your national government, public health authority, or your doctor.

I am living with HIV, how can I prevent COVID-19?

The advice for people living with HIV is the same as the general population. You can review our main COVID-19 page for more information about transmission, prevention and symptoms, but in short:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 40 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for situations where you do not have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face. This is the main way the virus enters your body.
  • Avoid people who are feeling unwell.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a clean tissue when you sneeze or cough. After throw it away and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, use the inside of your elbow to cover your mouith and nose.

If you are feeling unwell – you have a persistent dry cough and a temperature – stay at home and call your health worker. They will be able to tell you your next steps. During this time, make sure you avoid close contact with others.

Tips on COVID-19 for people living with HIV

All people living with HIV should take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from coronavirus and ensure that they are adhering properly to their antiretroviral treatment.

  • Try to stock-up on your antiretroviral treatment for at least 30 days, ideally for three months.
  • Ensure your immunisations are up to date (influenza and pneumococcal vaccines).
  • Make sure you know how to get in touch with your health care facility and that you have a plan in place if you feel unwell and need to stay at home.
  • Make sure you are eating well, exercising as best you can (even at home), and looking after your mental health.

During this time, some governments are asking people to avoid other people and to stay inside in order to stop the spread of the virus. This may be particularly difficult for some people. Keeping in touch with people remotely, such as online, by phone or by video chat, can help you to stay socially connected and mentally healthy.   

Remember, the situation is currently ongoing. As more people acquire the virus, we will learn more about how it behaves. We urge you to keep an eye on advice from:

Sources: 
Last updated:
24 March 2020