Harold Phillips, Chief Operating Officer for Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S., explains what we know about the COVID-19 risk for people with HIV.
Are people with HIV at higher risk of getting COVID-19 than people who don’t have HIV?
Scientists are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people with HIV. Based on limited data, they believe that people with HIV who are on effective HIV treatment have the same risk for getting COVID-19 as people who don’t have HIV. However, if people with HIV do get COVID-19, they can be at increased risk for severe illness.
The risk for people with HIV getting very sick from COVID-19 is greatest in people with a low CD4 cell count, and people not on effective HIV treatment.
Should people with and at risk for HIV get vaccinated?
Yes! Because people with HIV can be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, CDC advises that they get the vaccine as long as they don’t have other conditions that would exclude them, like a known severe allergic reaction.
Vaccines are very safe and effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19, and from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Data specific to people with HIV is not yet available. However, people with HIV were included in the vaccine clinical trials, so that data should be available in the future. Most HIV providers strongly recommend that people with HIV get vaccinated as soon as possible rather than wait for further data. In short, everyone should get vaccinated to protect ourselves, each other, and our communities.