COVID-19 & HIV+
There has been a lot of talk about the ‘underlying health conditions’ that could make people more vulnerable to getting COVID-19. This may be worrying if you or someone you know is living with HIV. The guidance on what to do depends on your viral load (how much HIV is in your blood) and CD4 count (how strong your immune system is).
If you are taking your medication, have an undetectable viral load (the virus is asleep) and your CD4 count is more than 200, then you should follow general government guidance. There are no extra steps that you need to take.
Without medication, HIV weakens the immune system and makes it vulnerable to opportunistic infections and viruses. COVID-19 is an opportunistic infection, which is why extra precautions are needed if your CD4 count is low. If your CD4 count is under 50 and/or you have had an opportunistic infection in the last 6 months you should be shielding.
There have been reports that young people are not as affected by COVID-19. It is important to remember that even if a person is young, they can still get COVID-19. Even if their symptoms are mild, they can still pass the virus onto someone else. Young people are not all the same and other health conditions can impact their vulnerability to COVID-19.
Shielding means that you should not leave your home for twelve weeks and you should limit contact with the people you live with. For more information, read Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.
The people that are described as extremely vulnerable are:
organ transplant recipients, people living with cancer, people with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, and severe COPD, people with rare metabolism diseases and pregnant women who have significant heart disease.
Everybody who needs to shield should have received a letter from the government by the end of March, however if you are in this group and haven't received the letter, you can register here. This will enable you to receive additional support including prescription and food delivery. If you don't know what your current CD4 count is, get in touch with your clinic on the phone to ask for your most recent blood test result.
Some people with well controlled HIV have received a text message on 7th April 2020, advising them they need to shield. You do not need to follow this information unless you have another reason to shield as listed above.
(Image courtesy of BHIVA/Sexpression Cardiff)
HIV TREATMENT AND DOCTORS APPOINTMENTS
It might be more difficult than usual to see your doctor at this time. Try not to worry if this is the case. The main thing is to make sure that you have at least 1 months supply of your medicines. If you have worries about your medicine, having your bloods done, or getting blood test results, try to make contact with your clinic on the phone, then you can check what the new arrangements are.