The Ministry of Health has issued advice to people living with HIV on how they can stay safe during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a statement they shared on their twitter handle, the Ministry called on people with HIV to take extra precautions to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus that has infected over 400,000 worldwide and still counting.
African has over 2500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The rising cases have seen many countries take drastic measures to curb its spread.
Underlying medical issues
The coronavirus is indiscriminate in how it spreads. However, it tends to be more lethal to people with underlying medical issues.
Thus, it is this reality that has prompted the MoH to issue an advisory to people living with HIV, answering frequently asked questions about the risk that the new illness causes to people living with HIV.
“People with HIV can be at increased risk of getting very sick with COVID-19 based on their age and other medical conditions.” The statement reads, in response to a question of whether the coronavirus posed a higher risk to people living with HIV.
The Ministry stated that the risk was highest among people living with HIV if they had a higher viral load as well as people not on HIV treatment, such as taking antiretrovirals (ARVs).
The Ministry then called on people living with HIV to protect themselves through various measures.
People with HIV to stay on ARVs
Among the measures, aside from the universal prevention measures, the Ministry called for people living with HIV to take their daily treatment of ART. This move, the Ministry said, was to ‘achieve a low detectable level of viral suppression’. That would then boost one’s immune system to combat the novel coronavirus properly.
The Ministry also asked for them to stock on at least a 30-day supply of HIV and other medication.
Besides that, they also encouraged one to eat well and get enough sleep. Additionally, one should reduce the levels of stress.
HIV drugs not effective against COVID-19
However, the Ministry advised that HIV drugs were no remedy for the COVID-19 illness.
“There are no data available yet from research that HIV medicine can help people with COVID-19. People with HIV should not switch to their HIV medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19.” The Ministry warned.
The warning is in line with what health experts around the world are advocating against – self-medication. As fear, panic, and misinformation spread along with the virus, people have resorted to unconventional measures to try and prevent or treat the infection.
Over 50 people died in Iran after drinking industrial ethanol after they were told it would prevent them from getting COVID-19. In Nigeria, several people were hospitalized after overdosing on chloroquine drugs just days after Donald Trump had touted it as a cure for COVID-19.
There is currently no cure for COVID-19. Research is still ongoing, with scientists always looking into how they can develop a cure or vaccine.
Prevention of COVID-19
Nonetheless, one can prevent COVID-19 by practising proper hygiene.
Clean your hands often, with either soap and water or hand sanitizer. Clean them for at least 20 seconds.
Avoid close contact with people showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Moreover, to be on the safe side, avoid close contact with people, generally. This is social distancing. It reduces the risk of spreading the infection.
Cover coughs or sneezes with the inside of your elbow. Alternatively, use a tissue and dispose it into the trash. Then wash your hands or use sanitizer.
If you feel sick, wear a mask so that you cover your coughs. If not ill, you do not need a mask unless you are working with someone already infected.
Clean touched surfaces regularly with water and soap, then disinfect with disinfectant. These are doorknobs, countertops, phones, keyboards, toilets, and sinks, among others.