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Dr Michael Brady from Terrance Higgins Trust on HIV & COVID-19 concerns.

Gscene Editorial Team March 18, 2020

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrance Higgins Trust talks about HIV and COVID-19 concerns.

Am I at greater risk if I’m HIV positive?

There’s currently no evidence that people living with HIV are any more likely to catch COVID-19 than anyone else and you should follow the advice being given to the general population.

If you are on treatment, with an undetectable viral load and a good CD4 count (e.g. over 350), then there should be no greater risk.

If you’re living with HIV and do not have an undetectable viral load or have a low CD4 count it will be more important to avoid situations where you may get infected and follow the advice about social distancing. There is likely to be more detailed information and guidance for those at greatest risk over the next few days and we will update these FAQs when we have it.

COVID-19 and HIV

It’s not the case that all people with HIV are considered at increased risk. Those on HIV treatment with a good CD4 count and an undetectable viral load are not considered to have weakened immune systems. I’d advise that a ‘good CD4 count’ means anything over 350. If your CD4 count is less than 350, if you’re not on treatment or if you have a detectable viral load, then it’s particularly important that you follow the guidance on social distancing.

Effective treatment means that the vast majority of people living with HIV have an undetectable viral and a good CD4 count. As a result, we usually don’t do the CD4 count test anymore because we know that, as long as you remain undetectable, your CD4 count will not fall. As a result, it may be a number of years since you last had your CD4 count checked. Don’t worry about this – you don’t need to have a CD4 count done now. As long as your viral load remains undetectable, your CD4 count will be as good, and probably better than it was when it was last tested.

What’s going to change is that HIV clinics will be reducing their face-to-face appointments. This is partly to reduce risk of infection but also to free up time for doctors and nurses to be redeployed into hospitals if they are needed to support the extra workload on the NHS.

Rest assured that our priority is, and will always be, your health, but be aware that we will have to do things differently over the coming months. Different clinics may take slightly different approaches, but where I work we are stopping routine appointments and doing them over the phone.

The situation is changing on a daily basis and we’ll update this information when we have more information to give you. I’m also providing some links in the FAQs below to other reliable sources of information.

Look after yourselves and look out for each other. Our best defence against the virus is now minimising social contact, regular hand washing, self-isolating if necessary, and taking care of those most vulnerable and isolated.

Information on the virus and answers to frequently asked questions from Dr Michael Brady via the THT website – Read his full blog here