LGBTIQ health organisations have shared advice for people living with HIV to take precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thorne Harbour Health, with Living Positive Victoria and Positive Women Victoria, advises people living with HIV (PLHIV) on treatment with an undetectable viral load – and no other significant health condition – are at no greater risk of serious health consequences due to COVID-19 than the general population.
“That said, they should still take the advice of the Department of Health in exercising precautions,” the groups urge.
These measures include handwashing, working from home where possible, limiting public transport, and avoiding large groups or crowded areas.
However, they warn the health consequences of COVID-19 infection are more severe for some vulnerable groups.
These include PLHIV who are over 60, living with a detectable viral load, diabetic, smokers or living with a comorbidity such as heart or lung issues.
“Those PLHIV who fall into one of the vulnerable groups listed above should limit contact with others to avoid potential exposure.”
How people with HIV can respond to COVID-19
The three groups advise people living with HIV who are concerned about the risk should:
- Maintain regularly scheduled medical appointments, but consider asking your doctor about telehealth consultations
- Ensure you have between 1-3 month supply of any current medications
- However, avoid stockpiling medications beyond a 1-3 month supply, as this could cause unnecessary shortages
- Be wary of advice or articles in social media. Do not modify the medications you currently take or begin taking new medications without consulting your doctor
- Keep in touch with friends, colleagues, and family via phone calls and video chat. Consider scheduling regular catch ups
- Stay in touch. Community health organisations will continue to have peer support and other community support available by phone, email and online
“This public health issue can be stressful, but our communities have a long history of collective action to ensure we look after our health as well as the wellbeing of those around us,” Thorne Harbour Health said.
“Let’s keep this legacy going as we look after ourselves and those around us.”
AFAO fact sheet on COVID-19
Last week, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations published a fact sheet with coronavirus guidance for LGBTIQ and HIV communities.
“COVID-19 is more serious for older people and those with a compromised immune system,” the AFAO advises.
“This includes people with HIV who have a low CD4 count and people who have cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, asthma and diabetes.
“If you’re taking medication, it’s a good idea to make sure you have at least one month’s supply.
“This is because you may need to stay at home if you feel unwell. Talk with your doctor if you need extra scripts.
“If you’re taking PrEP and are concerned about maintaining your three-monthly appointments, talk to your doctor for more options.”
As Australia imports many medicines from India and China, the pandemic may interrupt supply of generic medicines, AFAO advised.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration is working to ensure Australia’s medicine supply,” AFAO said.
“People with HIV should consider having an extra month’s supply of HIV medication to accommodate a need to self-isolate, or delays in supply.
“This is also the case for people with other health conditions.
“There is no need to stockpile over the counter medication such as paracetamol or Ibuprofen. Only buy what you need.”
HIV medication ‘does not protect against virus’
AFAO warned there was “no reliably confirmed evidence” HIV medications protect against coronavirus.
“Being on anti-viral medication for HIV (including PrEP), hepatitis C or hepatitis B, has not been shown to provide protection from COVID-19,” they said.
AFAO also urged everyone to get in touch with people worried about COVID-19 or in need of support and ask how to help.
“As communities we have a long proud history of looking out for each other,” they said.
“This is a good time for us to show the best of our communities.”
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