- Is COVID-19 worse in people living with HIV?
There is currently no evidence that people living with HIV are at a higher risk of being infected with coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness. The understanding of the risk of developing severe COVID-19 in people living with HIV is evolving. Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or being over a certain age.
The best way to stay healthy is by adhering to antiretroviral treatment.
- Are some people living with HIV more at risk of getting ill?
People living with HIV who have a compromised immune system should be extra cautious to prevent coronavirus infection. These include people with
- a low CD4 count (<200 copies/cell),
- a high viral load,
- or a recent opportunistic infection (for example, tuberculosis (TB))
This is because your immune system may not be prepared to deal with the virus. We also know that people living with HIV are more vulnerable to respiratory infections when their HIV is not well managed. For this reason, it is very important to be taking your antiretroviral treatment as prescribed – always, but especially during this time. Talk to your health provider if you are currently not taking treatment or if you are struggling with adherence.
- I am living with HIV; how can I prevent COVID-19?
The advice for people living with HIV is mostly the same as for everyone else.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for situations where you do not have access to soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face because this is one of the ways the virus enters your body.
- Avoid being around people who are feeling unwell.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a clean tissue when you sneeze or cough. Always throw the tissue away and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, use the inside of your elbow to cover your mouth and nose.
- I am living with HIV, what should I do if I feel unwell?
If you are feeling unwell and you have a new persistent dry cough, a temperature, and/or loss or change in sense of smell or taste, stay at home and call your health provider. 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, so you have enough for at least 30 days, ideally for three months or more.
- 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