Category Archives: COVID-19

Protect yourself from the Flu: Important info for people with HIV

From HIV.gov

Getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu. This season, getting a flu vaccine has the added benefit of reducing the overall burden on the health care system and saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients.

People with HIV—especially those who have a very low CD4 cell count or who are not taking antiretroviral therapy—are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. For this reason, it is especially important that people with HIV get a flu shot annually. (The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for people with HIV.)

In addition to getting a flu shot every year, people with HIV should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs, and washing hands often.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

COVID-19 and HIV “Virtual Listening Sessions” hosted by HPCP

The HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh–on behalf of the Pennsylvania HIV Planning Group–is hosting two COVID-19 and HIV Virtual Listening Sessions. These two sessions will provide a space for people living with HIV in Pennsylvania to share their concerns about COVID-19 and its life-disrupting effects.

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Session 1 will take place on October 14th from 4:00-5:30 pm for the Northwest, Northcentral, and Southwest regions of Pennsylvania.

Session 2 will take place on October 21st from 4:00-5:30 pm for the Southcentral, Northeast, and Eastcentral  (AIDSNET) regions.

Participants are required to preregister in order to receive a link to the virtual meeting. To register and find out more about session 1, click here. To register and find out more about session 2, click here.

You can download a .pdf for LIstening  Session 1  and Listening Session 2 for more information.

Sex and COVID-19

It may seem obvious that if a person is infected with COVID-19, they risk infecting others during sex. But people still have a lot of questions. Here’s an excerpt on the topic form the Mayo Clinic Website:

The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of a person nearby. Coming into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you to the virus. People who have COVID-19 could also spread respiratory droplets onto their skin and personal belongings. A sexual partner could get the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. In addition, the COVID-19 virus can spread through contact with feces. It’s possible that you could get the COVID-19 virus from sexual activities that expose you to fecal matter.

There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, but the virus has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from the virus. Further research is needed to determine if the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted sexually.

Since some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms, it’s important to keep distance between yourself and others if the COVID-19 virus is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding sexual contact with anybody who doesn’t live with you. If you or your partner isn’t feeling well or think you might have COVID-19, don’t kiss or have sex with each other until you’re both feeling better. Also, if you or your partner is at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 due to an existing chronic condition, you might want to avoid sex.

In case that wasn’t clear, The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), in partnership with National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), released a frequently asked questions resource regarding sex and COVID-19. In short, if you’re in the same room with someone who has the virus, you can get infected–sex or no sex.

If you have questions about getting tested, talk to your doctor or health care provider. You can also find testing in your area via a Google search. In Pennsylvania, call the Health Department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

HIV, COVID-19 and the importance of public health

From The Hill

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it is a sobering moment to recognize and take stock of another epidemic that we have been battling for nearly four decades. The first HIV Testing Day was 25 years ago and emphasized the opportunity for individuals to take control of their health by getting tested for HIV. It has become an annual reminder that the HIV epidemic is still with us. This year the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic threatens the ability of those with undiagnosed HIV and those with other serious conditions to take control of their health.

decorative imageAs an infectious disease physician specializing in HIV, I worry about the many individuals who do not have easy access to HIV testing now because testing venues have been shut down by the pandemic. Already too many of my patients do not discover they have HIV until they are ill with advanced disease or AIDS. In Georgia, the state with the highest rate of new cases in the U.S., nearly one-quarter of patients are diagnosed with AIDS within one year of being diagnosed with HIV.

This means they have been living, undiagnosed, with the virus for up to 10 years and have been unable to benefit from the HIV treatment that could have kept them healthy and prevented transmission to others. This is tragic given that a strong public health system with widespread testing could prevent death.

Read the full article.

STD rates likely skyrocketing in US as fewer people get tested during pandemic

From businessinsider.com

As clinics and health departments across the country have shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s roughly 2,200 disease detectives, the so-called “contact tracers” of infectious disease outbreaks, have been re-deployed to track where cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — are spreading, to try to stop those outbreaks in their tracks. It’s a necessary shift, but one that may have serious, long-term impacts for the country’s sexual health, and for President Trump’s year-and-a-half-old plan to “eliminate” HIV from the US by 2030.

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click to find nearby HIV and STD testing

[…] According to a recent NCSD survey of HIV and STD disease tracers around the country, 83% are forgoing their usual field visits as a result of this pandemic. Two-thirds of the country’s clinics (66%) have also reported decreases in health screenings and testing due to COVID-19.

Read the article.

Tune in as PACHA Convenes Virtually June 1 & 2 to Discuss COVID-19’s Impact on the HIV Response and the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) will hold its 67th full Council meeting virtually on Monday, June 1 and Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the council members will each participate from home, presenters will join remotely, and stakeholders can view the meeting via livestream online.

During the meeting, the Council will:

  • Welcome a new member;
  • Discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV response;
  • Engage with federal HIV leaders on the status of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative and the Federal responses to prevention and care access challenges resulting from COVID-19; and
  • Hear perspectives and lessons learned on HIV and COVID-19 from PEPFAR.

View the agenda.

The Council will also hear public comments during the meeting. Individuals wishing to make a public comment must pre-register by emailing PACHA@hhs.gov. If you do not pre-register for public comment but decide you would like to submit a statement, please email your written statement to PACHA@hhs.gov by close of business Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

The meeting convenes on Monday, June 1 and Tuesday, June 2, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (ET) each day. It will be livestreamed at www.hhs.gov/live. To register, please email Caroline Talev at PACHA@hhs.gov.

Learn more about PACHA on HIV.gov, where you can find links to previous meeting summaries and slides, including those from the February 2020 PACHA meeting held in Washington, DC.

PrEP During COVID-19

From HIV.gov

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) understands that its partners in HIV prevention are facing unprecedented challenges and demands as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic together.

While some clinics and HIV prevention providers have adapted to changing circumstances by offering expanded phone triage and telehealth services, other clinics that provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services have had to reduce hours, eliminate or reallocate staff resources, or temporarily close.

CDC has developed guidance for providing PrEP when facility-based services and in-person patient-clinician contact is limited. For programs experiencing disruption in PrEP clinical services, CDC offers the following guidance for clinics to consider in the context of local resources and staff availability.

Continue reading

Jurisdictions Use HIV Self-Testing Programs to Improve Testing Uptake and Increase Diagnoses

From HIV.gov

More than 160,000 Americans with HIV are unaware they have the virus because they have not been tested and diagnosed. Yet we know that early diagnosis and treatment with ART are associated with better health outcomes for those with HIV. There are profound prevention benefits as well—a CDC analysis found that the nearly 15% of people with HIV whose infections are undiagnosed account for 38% of all HIV transmissions in the U.S. By finding ways to help more people get tested, we can prolong lives and prevent further transmissions.

That’s why HIV testing is a key strategy in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE), the nation’s plan to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030. The first of the Plan’s four strategies calls for diagnosing all people with HIV as early as possible after infection so they can begin care and treatment that can protect their health and prevent transmission of the virus to their partners.

Stakeholders across the country are exploring innovative ways to pursue this EHE strategy and seeking to make HIV testing more available to previously unreached populations, such as those who live far from the nearest testing site or who are concerned about confidentiality. One innovative model includes HIV self-testing programs, sometimes called “home HIV test giveaways.” These are programs in which city or state health departments advertise free self-test kits via the internet and/or dating apps, and distribute the kits by mail so that users can perform their own HIV tests in private.

Continue reading on HIV.gov.

Pandemic sparks concerns about surging STD, HIV rates

From the Hill

The pandemic that has upended life in the U.S. could lead to increased STD rates and setbacks in the fight against HIV as public health resources are shifted to the coronavirus response.

Access to STD and HIV testing and treatment services are dwindling as local health departments shuffle staff to respond to COVID-19 and clinics reduce hours or close altogether and cancel outreach programs.

“We are seeing a complete disruption to STD prevention here in the United States,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “We expect to experience even higher STD rates as a result.”

Read the full article.

New Interim NIH Guidelines for people living with HIV regarding the COVID-19 pandemic

From the National Institutes of Health and Human Services

New guidelines have been set by the NIH in regards to persons living with HIV. This interim guidance reviews special considerations for persons with HIV and their health care providers in the United States regarding COVID-19. Information and data on COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. This guidance includes general information to consider. People with HIV who have COVID-19 have an excellent prognosis, and they should be clinically managed the same as persons in the general population with COVID-19, including when making medical care triage determinations.

Follow this link to read the new guidelines (https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/html/8/covid-19-and-persons-with-hiv–interim-guidance-/0).

This interim guidance was prepared by the following working groups of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council:

  • HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents
  • HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of Children Living with HIV
  • HHS Panel on Treatment of Pregnant Women with HIV Infection and Prevention of Perinatal Transmission
  • HHS Panel on Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV
  • HHS Panel on Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Exposed and HIV-Infected Children