Q & A: HIV & COVID-19

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March 29, 2020: Zahid Somani, Pharmacist-Owner of The Village Pharmacy, answers frequently asked questions about Coronavirus / COVID-19 for people living with HIV in Toronto: 

AM I MORE AT RISK FOR COVID-19 IF I AM HIV POSITIVE?

According to CATIE, people living with HIV are not expected to be at greater risk for COVID-19 infection than the general population. 

BUT, you are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 if:

  • you are HIV-positive and are not on treatment
  • you are on HIV treatment but have a low CD4+ cell count
  • you are HIV-positive and have Hepatitis C
  • you are HIV-positive and 65 years old or older
  • you have other conditions like heart disease, chronic respiratory illness, diabetes or kidney disease 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. 


HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF FROM COVID-19?

People who are HIV-positive should take extra care and follow the Canadian Public Health guidelines to prevent COVID-19 infection:

Personal hygiene & wellness

  • Continue to take your HIV and other prescription medications, as prescribed. If possible, try to keep an extra 30 days supply on hand. Call ahead for prescription refills from your pharmacy
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds each time, throughout the day
  • Don’t touch your face!
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat nutritious foods 
  • Connect with friends & family virtually
  • Avoid stress

Physical distancing 

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Keep away from others who are sick
  • If you have recently travelled, or are feeling unwell, stay at home for 14 days and monitor yourself closely for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Keep two arms-length distance (or about 6 feet) away from others
  • Avoid crowds

Know the symptoms

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches and tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Less common: sore throat, headache and diarrhea 


WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I START EXPERIENCING SYMPTOMS?

If you have mild symptoms, stay at home for 14 days and monitor yourself closely. 

You can take Tylenol to help control a fever. Rest and isolate yourself from your family or roommates as much as possible.

Contact your doctor by telephone if you need assistance. 

If your symptoms worsen, call 911. 

Fact sheet: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How to isolate at home when you have COVID-19

IS IBUPROFEN SAFE? 

According to Health Canada, there is no scientific evidence that links Ibuprofen to worsening symptoms of COVID-19.

If you are prescribed Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medication for a chronic condition or illness, keep taking it, even if you have symptoms of COVID-19. 

Call your doctor for advice if you are unsure.

SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR COVID-19?

At this time, Toronto Public Health recommends testing only for people who have COVID-19 symptoms AND who are at risk of transmitting the virus to larger groups of people – for example people who work in hospitals and other healthcare settings, and people working or living in retirement homes, hospices, group homes, shelters, etc. 

If you are unsure about your symptoms or if you should visit a COVID-19 testing centre, call your doctor first, or Telehealth.

Take the online COVID-19 self-assessment 

Toronto Region COVID-19 Assessment Centres

Telehealth: 1-866-797-0000

DO HIV DRUGS WORK FOR COVID-19?

CATIE has reported that Kaletra, an older HIV drug, is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, according to the latest research results.

Although there is no approved treatment for COVID-19, many clinical trials are currently underway.  People with HIV should not switch their HIV medicine in an attempt to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Call your doctor’s office first and get their advice when it comes to treatment for any medical condition, including COVID-19. 


NEED MORE INFO?

If you’re HIV-positive and you’re not on medication for any reason, please email Zahid at zahid@thevillagepharmacy.ca

If you are unsure of your HIV-status, we can help with HIV-testing: HIV Testing at The Village Pharmacy

If you have any other questions about COVID-19 and your health, please contact us The Village Pharmacy. We’re here for you.

REFERENCES:

CATIE: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), HIV and hepatitis C: What you need to know

CATIE: Kaletra disappointing in people severely ill with COVID-19

City of Toronto – Toronto Region COVID-19 Assessment Centres

City of Toronto – COVID-19: Health Advice

Government of Ontario COVID-19 Self Assessment 

Health Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak updates, symptoms, prevention, travel, preparation

Health Canada: No scientific evidence that ibuprofen worsens COVID-19 symptoms – Recalls and safety alerts

WHO – COVID-19 Health Advice: Coronavirus disease 2019

Pedro Schuurhuis

Pedro is an immigrant from Brazil and has landed in the beautiful land of Tkaronto. As a PHA himself, PWA is where he found a home and a family. Pedro is currently the Executive Assistant for PWA.