Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 and HIV
There’s still a lot of research to be done on COVID-19. Currently, we know that it is more dangerous to the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems. HIV is a condition that compromises the immune system, so we need to find out if there’s anything that people who are HIV-positive need to know about COVID-19. Here’s more.
HIV works by slowing down and weakening an infected person’s immune system. If HIV is not controlled by treatment, the loss of CD4 cells makes it harder for your body to fight off infections and diseases. When this happens, opportunistic infections like COVID-19 can take advantage of your system, making you severely ill. Read this article to find out more about how HIV affects the immune system.
If you are living with HIV, it’s important to take your ARV treatment as advised by a healthcare professional especially during this time. This treatment helps slow down the virus from multiplying, which increases your CD4 cell count and reduces the viral load. A reduced or undetectable viral load means that your immune system is stronger to handle infections.
COVID-19 takes advantage of an already compromised immune system (ie someone who already has a disease affecting their immune system). This includes heart disease, diabetes and HIV. Although COVID-19 can affect people who don’t have any pre-existing conditions like the ones I have mentioned, it can cause more serious illness in people who do have these conditions.
How does COVID-19 affect you if you are HIV positive?
Well, if you are taking treatment (prescribed by your healthcare provider) and have a low or undetected viral load, then COVID-19 will affect you in the same way as it would affect someone who is HIV-negative. You might just experience flu like symptoms (fever, sore throat, dry cough, and difficulty breathing) or no symptoms at all. This is why it’s important to take your treatment every day and maintain a healthy lifestyle so you can help your body fight off infections if it needs to.
Read this for info on what to do if you are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms.
How to protect yourself against COVID-19
If you are living with HIV, then you need to take the same precautionary measures as everyone else. This means wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing practices when in public, as well as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
One thing that’s important for anyone living with a chronic condition, like HIV, is to remember to take medication and treatment as advised by a healthcare professional and not miss any check-ups. I know that this is a difficult time and a lot has changed, but you can still get healthcare services and take the necessary measures to prevent COVID-19 infection.
You can also stay informed by visiting sacoronavirus.co.za for the latest updates.
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