WHO has not issued special guidance for people living with HIV, but they have provided short Q&A [here].(Q&A on COVID-19, HIV and antiretrovirals )
1. In addition to basic hand hygiene, any vulnerable populations should consider how they can best self-quarantine and reduce contacts as much as possible.
COVID-19 is mostly spread through close contact with an infected individual. You can cut your risk of infection by:
- Reducing your contacts to as few people as possible. Stay home if possible. That won’t be an option for everyone. Don’t stress about the contacts that you can’t cut, but think about what you can reduce!
- Stay 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people. The virus spreads best through droplets (infected people coughing, sneezing, speaking) in close range.
- If you must leave the house, try to reduce or eliminate any time in enclosed spaces. Outside and air circulation is best! Choose to walk or bike instead of taking public transportation, for example. Shop at an open-air market when it’s less busy instead of entering a small kiosk or busy supermarket.
2. Work with local medical professionals to determine what treatment can be done at home.
Because you need to reduce your contacts, all treatment and care that can be done at home instead of in a clinical setting, should be done at home. Healthcare facilities can be the biggest spreaders of COVID-19. Work with local healthcare professionals to create new ways of accessing TB & HIV treatment if at all possible. Can medicines be delivered to people’s homes? Can patients connect with their healthcare provider by phone or WhatsApp instead of seeing them in person? Help create local solutions to reduce the need for people to be treated at a healthcare facility, where risk of infection with COVID-19 will likely be high.
WHO also recommends: “People living with HIV who are taking antiretroviral drugs should ensure that they have at least 30 days and up to 6-month supply of medicines and ensure that their vaccinations are up to date (influenza and pneumococcal vaccines). Adequate supplies of medicines to treat co-infections and comorbidities and addiction should also be ensured.”
Above all, do maintain treatment for HIV and TB, even if that means having to go to a health facility! Remember that most people, even vulnerable populations, will recover from COVID-19 infection
3. Help people in the network access basic hygiene materials (soap and water, or hand sanitizer)
If people living with HIV do not have access to basic hygiene, can the network help with that?
Here’s instructions of how to build a Tippy Tap, if running water is not available: https://twitter.com/i/status/1243534860867813379
Here are instructions of how to make hand sanitizer, if it’s possible for you network to make it and distribute it (Note, hand sanitizer is not better than soap and water. It’s simply an option if soap and water are harder to use or come by): There are many ways to make hand sanitizer. To be effective, choose a formula that’s at least 60% alcohol and only follow instructions from trusted sources. You can find WHO’s guidelines for preparing hand sanitizer here. This is a very thorough guide on the different substances and formulas that can be used. If that’s overwhelming, you can follow the guidance in this article. The simplest recipe is 3 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part aloe vera gel.
4. Make a plan in case someone in the household becomes ill with suspected COVID-19.
It’s possible that someone in the household will become ill with COVID-19. People living with HIV should make a plan ahead of time. Is it possible for the ill person to self-isolate elsewhere? It is possible for the person living with HIV to safely self-quarantine elsewhere. If not, review guidance from WHO on treating people with mild or moderate COVID-19 at home. It’s possible to prevent the spread of infection, even in a home! Be ready to follow as much of the guidance as possible:
5. Consider using a homemade mask
WHO is still recommending that healthy people not wear homemade masks. However, many experts are rapidly revising their opinions on this topic. In general, wearing masks is better at preventing you from spreading the infection than getting the infection. Many experts still believe they are better than no protection at all. If people choose to wear a cotton, homemade mask, ensure that they understand 1) Masks don’t make you invulnerable! You still need to reduce contacts and wash hands carefully 2) Masks need to be washed after every use. Otherwise, they can trap viruses and bacteria, making the situation worse. 3) Be conscious that masks can make us more likely to touch your face, which increases your risk.