Coronavirus (COVID-19) and people living with HIV in Scotland


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Here, we’re keeping you up to date with everything we know about Coronavirus/COVID-19 as we understand that people who live with weakened or compromised immune systems may be experiencing an extra level of anxiety and uncertainty at this time.

## Updated 15:00 17/03/2020 ##

The Terrence Higgins Trust’s Medical Director, Dr Michael Brady has confirmed that those on HIV treatment with a good CD4 count and an undetectable viral load are not considered to have weakened immune systems. He advises that a good CD4 count means anything over 350. If your CD4 count is less than 350, if you’re not on treatment or if you have a detectable viral load, then it is particularly important that you follow the guidance below on social distancing. 


The British HIV Association have published the following advice on 17th March 2020: 

“Whilst there is no evidence so far to determine whether people with HIV are at greater risk of COVID-19 acquisition or severe disease the new advice reflects the lack of evidence by classifying all people with HIV as vulnerable.

The Guidance from Public Health England (PHE) on Social Distancing for Vulnerable Groups, including people with HIV is available here: The general advice in this does not go as far as to recommend self-isolation for all at risk, nor does it specify a duration of time for the self-isolation.

“More detail is expected soon and this may include specific advice for people living with HIV based on viral load and CD4 count, as people on HIV treatment with a good CD4 and undetectable viral load are not usually considered to have a “weakened immune system” as specified in the PHE guidance. BHIVA and THT will aim to inform the HIV community about new developments in the field as they emerge but right now we recommend following PHE’s “social distancing” advice which does not necessarily mean “self-isolation.””


The latest Scottish Government advice can be found here

People living with HIV are included in the vulnerable persons list who are being asked to implement some social distancing measures. This does not mean all people living with HIV, only those who have a CD4 count under 350, have a detectable viral load or are not on treatment. This includes: 

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough; 
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour when possible. 
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. 
  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in small public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs. 
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media. 
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services. 

The recommended methods to protect yourself from COVID-19 are as follows;

  • Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Here is a video from the World Health Organisation demonstrating best practice.
  • Avoiding touching your face (mouth, nose and eyes) and maintaining distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Ensuring that people living with HIV have received their influenza and pneumococcal vaccination in line with BHIVA vaccine guidelines.
  • Keep up to date and heed the advise of local health officials

If you present symptoms (which usually appear within 2-14 days of being exposed to the virus), In the UK, the medical advice is that if you have recently travelled from areas affected by coronavirus, you should:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

More NHS advice on what to do if you think you have been exposed to the virus can be found on NHS Inform, and the full travel advice to UK nationals is available here.

Published: 17th March, 2020

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