What people living with HIV, and the people who care about them, need to know
As the health crisis of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) unfolds around us, many people are rightly concerned about how those of us with underlying health conditions, such as HIV, could be at greater risk of more serious complications if they become exposed to the virus. If you are living with HIV and have specific concerns, or have developed symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection, consult your doctor immediately. Here are a few things everyone needs to know regarding COVID-19 and HIV:
- While it’s too early to tell if people living with HIV are at any more risk than others for COVID-19 infection, experts say that those whose immune cell (CD-4) count is low or who lack consistent access to HIV meds may be at elevated risk.
- It is imperative that EVERYONE practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Healthy people, whether they are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, can become infected with COVID-19 and never experience symptoms, yet they can still spread the virus to others. It is all of our responsibility to look out for one another.
- If you are HIV positive, you know that staying on your medications, and maintaining a low viral load and a healthy CD-4 count are the best things you can do for your overall health. This applies to COVID-19 as well. Ensure that you have at least a 30-day supply of medication at all times, and stay up to date on immunizations.
- Remember that the same stigma, racism, and bigotry that have fed the HIV epidemic are also being used against people in this epidemic (such as when the President insists on referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese Virus,” feeding a climate of bigotry against Asian-Americans, instead of the spirit of solidarity that we need to get through this). Choose helping over hurting, and challenge stigma and bigotry when you see it.
Please note that we are still in the early days of this pandemic; the situation is changing rapidly, and we are learning new things every day. For the best, most up-to-date resources, bookmark the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For news and analysis on all health issues as they relate to HIV, check out TheBody.com and POZ.com.