Comment on COVID-19 from the British HIV Association (BHIVA)

posted by: Don Leslie

updated Wednesday 25 March 2020

The British HIV Association (BHIVA) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) have updated their 23 March 2020 COVID-19 statement for people with HIV in the light of the latest UK Government advice: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

Everyone is advised to stay at home and:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home);
  • Stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people;
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home.

The guidance includes how to reduce risk if you must go outside.

There is separate guidance for people or households who are isolating and ‘shielding’ for people with conditions considered extremely vulnerable, which does not include HIV.

Although there remains no evidence to determine whether people with HIV are at greater risk of getting COVID-19 or severe disease, BHIVA and THT advise that people with a CD4 less than 50, or who have had an opportunistic illness (a serious illness due to suppression of the immune system) within the last 6 months, should be encouraged to follow the shielding advice for the extremely vulnerable.

1) People with a CD4 count <50 or opportunistic illness in last 6 months: follow shielding advice for extremely vulnerable;

2) People with CD4 <200, detectable viral load or not on ART: follow social distancing advice stringently;

3) People with CD4 >200 and undetectable on ART: follow general population advice (ie social distancing).

Please note that there is no evidence to date that antiretrovirals, as HIV treatment or as PrEP, have any potential for treating coronavirus.

To check the most up-to-date advice please review the BHIVA news pages.

Here is a blog post from THT Medical Director Dr Michael Brady which covers some FAQs: https://www.tht.org.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19?mc_cid=ddd48f5cfc&mc_eid=1123d39017

If you are concerned please contact  your nearest Devon sexual health clinic for advice.

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Coronavirus Covid 19

General Advice:

Anyone who has symptoms including a new continuous cough or high temperature should stay at home and self-isolate for 7 days from when your symptoms started. This action will help to protect others in our community whilst you are infectious.

Clear advice for people with early symptoms of coronavirus is available online at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

How to access the service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the this pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic.

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Alternative provision:

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills - obtained from your GP or bought online - more info
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhoea screening - available online for under 25s only - more info
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info