What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccinations
Here are some interesting news articles for people living with HIV about COVID-19 vaccinations generally, and about the rollout in Australia specifically. Have a read for yourself and Pozhet will keep you updated with information about COVID-19 vaccinations as it comes to hand.
For local information and support PositiveLife NSW has information on their website including resources (in development) to ensure that people living with HIV in NSW are informed. Have a read of their webpage: HIV and the COVID-19 vaccine.
In this article, the British HIV Association states:
“There is no reason to think these vaccines will be less safe for people with HIV,” say the British HIV Association (BHIVA). “Both include some of the genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) but not the whole virus. This means they are not live vaccines and so are no less safe in people with damaged immune systems.”
Their statement referred specifically to the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, but this is also the case for almost all COVID-19 vaccines being tested.
I’m living with HIV and have had the COVID vaccine. This is the story of a man with HIV in the UK who was part of a COVID vaccine trial.
COVID vaccines will be recommended to almost all Australians. But are there people who can’t be immunised? This article provides information in response to this question.
The ASHM COVID-19 Taskforce on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health recently stated:
Based on recent initial meetings alongside the National Association of People Living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), we have received in-principle agreement from the Commonwealth that all people living with HIV including those who are incarcerated, in migrant detention centres, people here on visas and those without Medicare numbers will be prioritised to receive COVID-19 vaccines during Phases 1a and 1b of the vaccine roll-out strategy. We have received assurances that confidentiality will be a key consideration in determining exactly how this process will operate. (Taskforce Newsletter)
Covid-19 and PLHIV
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has changed our everyday lives and impacted us in many different ways. There are a lot of concerns about COVID-19 for people living with HIV (PLHIV). Our clients have asked the following questions about COVID-19 and what it means for people living with HIV:
Are people with HIV at higher risk for COVID-19 than other people?
There is no evidence that the risk of infection or complications from COVID-19 is different among PLHIV (who are on effective antiretroviral treatment and with an undetectable viral load) than the general population.
Some people living with HIV may have other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or other diseases that can increase the risk of COVID-19.
PLHIV are advised to take the same precautions as the general population:
- Wash hands often
- Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
- Continue to use physical distancing, that is maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between you and the next person
- Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
A large US study presented at the recent 23rd International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2020: Virtual), reported that PLHIV were not more likely to contract the Coronavirus. Those who did were not more likely to develop severe COVID-19. Researchers found that people with HIV had higher testing rates but that this did not result in a higher rate of positivity among those tested.
Other studies from around the world including London and New York City reported similar findings. However one study from South Africa did report a modest increase in mortality for people living with HIV. It was acknowledged that it was people with a high viral load and low CD4 count who had a somewhat higher risk of death.
Will pharmacies run out of HIV medications?
During the COVID-19 health emergency, people living with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are understandably concerned about access to their medications.
There is enough medication for everyone!
All you need to do is to keep one month’s supply at home and to ensure prescriptions are refilled two to four weeks in advance. There are currently no expected shortages for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C medications.
Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) recommends that people concerned about going to the pharmacist in person should talk to their pharmacist about delivery options. Many pharmacies are now offering a home delivery option, don’t be afraid to ask!
Will I have access to medical appointments?
Many doctors are happy to do phone or video consultations so give them a call if you need to speak to them. Medicare currently allows doctors, nurses and mental health professionals to deliver services to all Australians via telehealth up until 30 September, 2020. General Practitioners and other Medical Practitioners must bulk bill Commonwealth concession card holders and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. People who have chronic health conditions or are immunocompromised or are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50 are included. Many health services are offering telehealth consultations to limit the need for travel, and to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Give your doctor or service, a call if you need a consultation.
From July 20, Telehealth GP providers will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide Telehealth services. This means that you need to have visited the GP or the practice in person at least once during the last 12 months.
This will ensure all patients continue to receive quality, ongoing care from a GP (or medical practice) who knows your medical history and needs.
If you don’t have a GP you can get your non-GP specialist prescriber to give you a referral to a GP. There are four exemptions to the requirement for an existing and continuing relationship with the GP providing the service:
- homeless people
- children under the age of 12 months
- people receiving Telehealth from a GP at an Aboriginal Medical Service
- patients referred to a GP by a non-GP specialist
- people living under COVID-19 restrictions
A Consumer factsheet which includes information about these changes and answers other questions about Telehealth is available here
Will Antiretroviral medications protect me against COVID-19?
No. Contrary to reports of HIV drugs being trialled as treatment for COVID-19, there is currently no evidence that antiretroviral medications (including PrEP) provide protection against COVID-19.
Be careful about where you get your information about COVID-19. Discussions about COVID-19 on social media can be confusing and not always based on evidence.
Source: ASHM, WHO, Positive Life NSW, NAPWHA
2. MENTAL HEALTH
It is understandable that during these times you may feel worried or anxious.
Here are some wellbeing tips to look after yourself:
- Limit your exposure to news and social media, if it makes you feel overwhelmed
- Access reliable information, please see the links we recommend below
- Stay (virtually) connected with family and friends
- Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, perhaps yoga, a bath, painting, cooking or reading a book
- Maintain physical activity, the Australian Government recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day.
- Practise gratitude each day. Start the day identifying three things you are grateful for – perhaps, a friendship, a recent encounter or having access to the essentials
- If you, or someone you love, is experiencing distress please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
or Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511
3. USEFUL LINKS ON COVID-19
Pozhet has compiled the following links from different organisations to provide our clients with the latest information
on COVID-19. The situation is evolving rapidly and we will provide updated information as it becomes available.
Positive Life NSW
News and updated information about COVID-19 and HIV.
How to contact HIV related services during this time.
National Association for People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)
Updated information about COVID-19 and HIV.
Provides updates and detailed information about COVID-19, particularly as it relates to NSW.
Australian Government Department of Health
Provides Australia wide information.