COVID 19 and HIV: What you need to know
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), and the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) have released some guidance for people on anti-viral medications, living with HIV, or caring for those who have a compromised immune system.
The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID 19) has caused some angst for people living with HIV and their carers, as well as people on anti-viral medications such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP). It’s important to be well-informed of the interactions between COVID 19 and these population groups.
People on HIV treatment
A low or undetectable viral load indicates that antivirals are working to suppress HIV. If a HIV-positive person’s CD4 count is above 500, they are unlikely to be at risk of opportunistic infections and the risk of contracting 2019-nCoV is similar to the rest of the population. People with a history of opportunistic infections related to HIV or AIDS defining illnesses, but who have a current undetectable viral load, should take special care to avoid exposure to 2019-nCoV. Be vigilant and consult a healthcare provider if in doubt.
Caring for someone who has a compromised immune system
Anyone who has been in contact with any confirmed COVID 19 cases must be quarantined in their home for 14 days following exposure. If a person caring for someone with a compromised immune system is concerned about exposure but have no symptoms and don’t believe they have been exposed to the virus, then normal precautions regarding viral transmissions should be followed.
If you’re caring for a person who has a compromised immune system, it’s important to take extra care with handwashing and infection precautions. If you are unwell in any way, it is best to avoid contact with the person while you are unwell.
People on anti-viral medications
Governments and health organisations are working to find an effective treatment for 2019-nCoV and there have been recent reports indicating successes with some HIV treatments. To date there is not sufficient evidence to indicate that these are broadly effective in treating 2019-nCoV. Being on a current anti-viral medication including treatment for HIV (including PrEP), hepatitis C or hepatitis B are not guaranteed to provide protection from 2019-nCoV.
You can find further guidance on this topic here.