COVID-19 (Coronavirus), HIV and TB
COVID-19 can affect anyone, no matter your age or health status. But people who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and may experience more severe symptoms. People who have Tuberculosis (TB) and people whose immune systems are compromised, including people living with HIV whose viral load is not suppressed, should take extra precautions. Keep taking your treatment, follow the prevention guidelines (including washing your hands regularly, keeping at least 2 meters from other people and wearing a mask), and speak to your healthcare provider about longer medicine refills and self-monitoring to reduce how often you need to visit the clinic.
What I need to know about Coronavirus, HIV and TB
- People living with HIV who are on effective treatment are not currently at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than other people.
- People living with HIV who are not on treatment or not virally suppressed are at greater risk because they may have a compromised immune system that makes them more vulnerable to opportunistic infections and COVID-19 complications.
- Elderly people living with HIV and people living with HIV who also have other conditions (e.g. TB, diabetes, hypertension) should be extra careful because these conditions may increase the risk of complications from COVID-19.
- People living with HIV who develop symptoms of COVID-19 should be diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 and/or other infections.
We are learning more about COVID-19 all the time, so keep in touch with your healthcare provider and keep checking government (Hyperlink https://coronavirus.datafree.co/) and other reliable websites to find out the latest information.
Advice for people living with HIV and TB
- Keep taking your ARV and/or TB treatment to keep your immune system strong.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about:
- Longer medication refills - try to stock up on your medications if possible (e.g. 30 days or 3 months’ supply).
- Self-monitoring and keeping in touch via phone, SMS or WhatsApp so that you don’t need to visit the clinic as often.
- If you’re not yet on treatment or treatment was interrupted, talk to your healthcare provider about getting back onto treatment.
- Avoid unnecessary visits to the clinic or health centre unless you:
- Experience serious breathing problems.
- Start developing advanced HIV disease danger signs such as high fever, problems walking by yourself, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and/or weight loss.
- Need to get medication refills or have a medical follow-up that cannot be rescheduled or completed in another way (e.g. home delivery of medication).
- Make sure you know how to get in touch with your healthcare facility or healthcare worker if you need to.
How do I prevent COVID-19?
- Follow general recommendations to prevent the transmission of HIV, TB and COVID-19, including wearing cloth masks.
- If you’re taking TB treatment, you and everyone you share your living space with should wear a cloth mask to prevent TB transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Make sure you pay attention to how to put on and take off your masks and keep them clean.
- If possible, sleep separately from other people who live in the same house.
- Try to stay at least 2 meters away from other people.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Regularly clean surfaces that you touch often.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cough or sneeze into a bent elbow.
Even if we can’t be in the same physical space, keep in touch with your community and your support system. Together we can keep each other safe and strong.
What if I experience flu symptoms?
- If you are not currently on antiretroviral and/or TB treatment, be aware that your flu-like symptoms could be from an infection other than COVID-19.
- Contact your healthcare provider rather than going directly to the clinic. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you what to do next. Always follow the instructions and guidance of healthcare providers and health authorities to find out if it is COVID-19 or something else and to make sure you get the right care.
- If you are advised to stay at home, try to keep a distance from other people living in the same space, including eating and sleeping separately if possible. Make sure that you and all other people living in the same space use cloth masks at all times.