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.
A team of scientists from St. Michael’s Hospital, Sinai Health and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have launched a clinical trial to understand whether an existing drug used for HIV treatment and prevention may work to prevent COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Darrell Tan
The trial will examine whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which is a medication a person takes once they’ve been exposed to a virus to prevent infection, could halt or slow the spread of COVID-19 in groups of people who have been exposed to a confirmed case. The drug in question – Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir as PEP)- has long been used in this capacity to prevent HIV in those who have been exposed to the virus.
“Early studies of the use of this medication as post-exposure prophylaxis therapy in other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS have been promising,” says Dr. Darrell Tan, the study’s lead investigator who is also a scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions and an infectious disease physician at St. Michael’s. “These are so-called ‘cousin’ viruses to COVID-19 and we want to understand whether lopinavir/ritonavir as PEP could impact its spread as well.”
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.
On April 21, 2020, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, the National LGBT Cancer Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and SAGE issued a second open letter to public health officials, healthcare institutions and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. The letter, joined by 170 organizations, called for action to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic. The letter also called for action to address the economic harm to LGBTQ communities from the pandemic.
The letter released on April 21 is a follow-up to an open letter signed by more than 150 organizations issued by the six coordinating organizations on March 11, 2020. Information on the first letter is available here.