South Africa has seen the ease of lockdown restrictions and levels in recent months but the spread of the COVID-19 virus is still a cause for concern, as the virus can cause severe illness in immunocompromised people (such as those who have HIV or TB, or both).
In South Africa, 7.7 million people live with HIV. Over 300 000 South Africans have tuberculosis (TB), a disease caused by bacteria spreading through the air from person to person. Half of the people who have TB also live with HIV.
But there is still a lot of misinformation circulating about what COVID-19 is, how it’s transmitted, how to prevent it and how to treat it. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about COVID-19 and the impact on people living with HIV.
- People living with HIV and on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) are not at greater risk of getting coronavirus.
- Our understanding of the risk of developing severe COVID-19 in people living with HIV is evolving. Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions
- People living with HIV not on treatment or virally suppressed may be at a greater risk. Speak to a healthcare professional for more information on how to stay healthy.
- As with the general population, older people living with HIV and those with other underlying health conditions should take extra precautions to prevent illness.
- Try to have at least a 30 days’ supply of ART in your home. If possible, ask for three months.
- As more people become infected with coronavirus, we will learn more about how it behaves. Remember to keep in touch with your healthcare provider and advice from your government.
- COVID-19 is passed on through droplets that come out of your mouth and nose when you cough or breathe out.
- COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, however, it can be passed on through kissing and close contact, including having sex.
- If you or a partner have COVID-19 symptoms, you should not kiss or have sex.
- There are lots of ways to have sexual pleasure without physical contact– try having fun with lone masturbation, sex toys, and phone or webcam sex.
- If you don’t have symptoms, having sex with a partner you live with is OK.
- If you decide to have sex with someone who doesn’t live with you, then you should take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
- Sexual health services – including for family planning, contraception and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – may be disrupted by the impact of COVID-19. Get in touch with your provider for information.
For more information on Covid-19, please visit the WHO website.
For more information on the HIV, TB and the impact of Coronavirus please visit the Avert website.
HIV and PrEP
Preventing HIV is still important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure you have an adequate supply of condoms, and at least 30 days’ worth of PrEP, if you currently taking PrEP.
Some people on PrEP may decide that their HIV risk is low because they are having less sex during the pandemic. If you decide to stop taking PrEP, make sure you know how to stop it and start it again. For most populations taking daily PrEP, they’ll need to have seven sex-free days before they can stop taking PrEP so that their last sex act is fully protected.
Check-out Prepster for more information.
Everyone has to do what they can in their immediate environment – keep a distance from others, avoid touching people, regularly wash hands, and clean surfaces that you and others touch often.