Covid-19 and HIV

Update - 8th June 2020

Level 1 from Monday 8th June

With the move to Alert Level 1 on Monday 8th June, everything at Body Positive is now back to normal, including all services and facilities.

We have a barcode for the Covid Tracing App displayed by the front door, so you can check in with your digital diary when you visit if you wish.

We are still adhering to good hygiene practices and public areas are being cleaned regularly.

Update - 12th May 2020

Level 2 from Thursday 14th May

Good news, Body Positive's office in Auckland will reopen at Alert Level 2, from Thursday 14th May as per the offical guidelines.

The office and support services will be available to people living with HIV from Thursday, and our Drop in Testing service will restart with its normal schedule from on Monday 18th May.

Good hygiene practices will be adhered too and public areas will will be cleaned regularly.

Update - 2nd April 2020

Helpful Resources

We have collated a set of resources relating to COVID-19 and HIV. Additional resource recommendations for this page are welcome and can be forwarded to office@bodypositive.org.nz for consideration.

Update - 25th March 2020

Level 4 Eliminate

It is likely that disease is not contained. The Risk Assessment indicates there is sustained and intensive transmission with widespread outbreaks. The country is going into lockdown for at least 4 weeks. With people staying at home and severely limited travel.

There are number of assistance measures that have been put in place. Visit covid19.govt.nz for accurate up to date information.
Support for People Living with HIV during the Lockdown
We have closed the Body Positive Office in Auckland and cancelled in person support as well as all public social events - all staff are now working from home. Support for people living with HIV is still being provided through phone and email during this time - Contact Us.

Social Media: We have a private Facebook group that allows people to connect with other people living with HIV around NZ. As this is a private group, no details of the group or anything you post or discuss within the group will be visible in any way to other Facebook friends you have outside the group - only those in the group will know who you are. It is a great way to beat the isolation and stay in contact with others as well as possible make some new friends. Access to the group is via invite only to maintain confidentiality - Email Body Positive with your Facebook profile name or message us via our Facebook Page to receive an invite to the group.

Weekly Video Chat Group: So that people can still socialise 'face-to-face' during the lockdown, we are also starting a private video support group through Zoom. Zoom is a free group video calling service that is secure and private - there is nothing to download and install, you just access the weekly chats with a link sent by Body Positive. The video chat group will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10:30-11:30am, and members can join or exit the chat any time during this hour. Access again is via invite only to maintain confidentiality - please email Body Positive to obtain the access link and connection details.

One-to-One Support: Body Positive will still be providing one-to-one support for people living with HIV through phone (0800 HIV LINE), email and Facebook. Please continue to get in touch if you need anything during the lockdown and we will try our best to help where we can.

Stay safe and minimise any exposure - If you develop symptoms call the Healthline (0800 358 5453) straight away for guidance. These are tough times and its important to focus on your mental health and reach out for support if you need it. We are stronger together and for the moment this will need to be virtual.

Be supportive, Be careful, Be alert, Be kind.

Ensure that you keep up with your HIV medications to stay healthy.
Visit Covid19.govt.nz for up to date information on the virus

Update - 23rd March 2020

Level 3

New Zealand suspects community transmission and is moving to level 3 immediately and level 4 on Wednesday 25th March. Take the necessary steps to protect your mental health by reaching out to your friends and family and to connect with your local community through phone, social media and other platforms.

Remember that when living with HIV you have the same risks as the general public for acquiring Coronavirus. Practice good basic hygiene when out in public – wash your hands. If you have a low cd4 count or detectable viral load you may have complications from Covid-19 so it’s imperative that you minimise your risk of getting it. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as your hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses.

Be supportive, Be careful, Be alert, Be kind.

Body Positive can provide support through phone, email and Facebook. We are not classed as an essential service and all staff are working from home. All social and in person support is cancelled.

Ensure that you keep up with your HIV medications to stay healthy.
Visit Covid19.govt.nz for up to date information on the virus

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) & HIV

HIV treatments are highly effective at controlling HIV and maintaining a robust immune system. By stopping HIV from replicating, the amount virus in your system becomes so low that it is undetectable. When HIV is controlled, it doesn’t impact your immune system so you maintain a healthy immune response to fight off infections such as coronavirus. By maintaining an undetectable HIV viral load you cannot pass on HIV either.

CD4 count is the chief measure of the immune system and a stronger immune system helps combatting any infection. If you have an undetectable viral load and a CD4 count above 500 hundred you should not be any more concerned about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) than the general public. At present, the data tell us that COVID-19 is more serious for older people and those with a compromised immune system. This includes people with HIV who have a low CD4 count (<350) and people who have cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, asthma and diabetes.

It is important that everyone living with HIV is aware of their status through regular testing and engage in care and treatment. If you are living with HIV now would be a good time to start (or resume) HIV treatment to maintain optimal health. You should have a minimum one month supply of your medications to ensure you don’t run out so that you can maintain adherence to your medication.

Currently it is assumed COVID-19 is spread through large droplets such as through coughing or sneezing. To minimise the spread of viral infections everyone should follow basic hygiene practices by washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, particularly before touching your face, preparing and eating food, or after sneezing or coughing. Ensure you cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing using a tissue or your elbow – then wash your hands.

As flu season is soon to appear in New Zealand, you do not want to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Although the influenza virus and COVID-19 are very different from each other they can cause a similar illness, and it is good to avoid having both viruses together, or one after the other. The flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine are provided for free to people living with HIV and can be accessed through your GP or Pharmacist. You are trying to keep your immune system at its peak responsiveness.

As there is no local transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand at this point there is no reason to avoid going out to events or enjoying life as usual. Whenever we see an outbreak of infectious disease it always ends up with finger-pointing and blaming and with minorities — whether they are sexual or ethnic minorities or from particular parts of the world — being targeted and blamed. As communities we have a long proud history of looking out for each other and now is a good time for us to show the best of our communities.

COVID-19 Helpful Resources

Some resources and services you may find helpful during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

If you know of any other resources and services, particularly services outside the Auckland region - please let us know so we can add them to the list - Contact Us
New Zealand Resources
Official Government site: covid19.govt.nz

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Symptoms include:
  • fever
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

If you have these symptoms please contact Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or international +64 9 358 5453) or your doctor immediately. Call your doctor before visiting.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text the 'Need to talk?' service on 1737. This service is free, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and gives you the chance to talk it through with a trained counsellor. However, if you’re struggling and need to talk, free call or text 1737 to have a chat with a trained counsellor. They’re available for free, day and night.
  • The Depression Helpline (0800 111 757)
  • Healthline (0800 611 116)
  • Lifeline (0800 543 354)
  • Samaritans (0800 726 666)
  • Youthline (0800 376 633)
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (0800 787 797
An editorial by Body Positive on casual sex during Covid-19 lockdown

Maintain your wellbeing

Realtime resiliency strategies from the NZ institute of wellbeing and resilience

If you have had a change in your drug and alcohol use the drug foundation has some information
Accessing Care & Treatment for HIV
During the Level 4 Lockdown, and continuing after the lockdown ends, when we transition back to Level 3, as was the case prior to Covid-19 - everyone in New Zealand living with HIV (regardless of whether you are a tourist, on a Work/Student Visa, or a NZ Resident/Citizen) is entitled to free HIV care and treatment through the public health system.

In some cases, depending on your area, your appointments with your HIV Specialist and the ID Team (or Sexual Health Clinic) may now be done virtually rather than in person at the hospital. Your local team will contact you prior to your appointment if that hospital has any special processes in place - you can also give them a call if you want to check prior your next scheduled appointment. If the appointment is virtual, then you will likely be sent a form so that you can have your blood-work done at your local Labplus or Labtests and then be sent the prescription for your new medication.

Currently pharmacies have been instructed to only dispense one months supply of medication at a time, so you may have to visit the pharmacy every month to collect you medication.

If you are currently in New Zealand as a tourist or on a work/student visa, and you have not accessed the NZ Health system before for your HIV care and treatment, please contact us and we can provide you with support and a referral to your local HIV Specialist so that you can continue your medication uninterrupted while you remain in NZ.
NZ Practical Support Services
Work and income is only accessible by phone or online through MyMSD but they are overloaded so expect a wait. They have expanded access to support and remove some stand down periods - workandincome.govt.nz

Salvation Army provides emergency welfare, addiction and housing support services are continuing to serve the vulnerable, albeit in a modified way, in line with lock-down protocols. Contact your local centre for support. Those in need should ring WINZ in the first instance, and ask family and friends for help where possible.

Foodbanks
Foodbank.co.nz maintains an extensive list of foodbanks across the country. Locate a local foodbank in the directory and call them for instructions as most centres are currently closed to the public.
National number for food parcels: 0800 530 000.

Auckland Foodbanks:
  • Auckland Emergency Management (website)- If you are out of supplies and struggling to get basic food, call 0800 222 296 between 7.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. to ask for help or email them at aemcovid19@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz. If you need financial assistance, please call the free government helpline 0800 779 997 (8am–1am, 7 days a week).
  • Auckland City Mission 09 3039200
NZ Community Support & Volunteers
Access or provide assistance to those in your community:
  • Lifewise is supporting people with access to housing - website
  • Red Cross including meals on wheels - website
  • Support Crew co-ordinates meals and support - website
  • Student Volunteer Army delivering groceries - website
  • Auckland Community Isolation Support 0800 437 674 - website
NZ Statistics
Official case numbers in New Zealand - health.govt.nz

Newsroom creates a variety of graphs to interpret NZ by the numbers - newsroom.co.nz

An up to date map of NZ Cases Covid Map

Understanding the data
Global Resources
Mayo-clinic self assessment tool for COVID-19 symptoms (Based on the CDC guidelines)

NAM webinar on HIV and COVID-19 (includes an older person living with HIV that has recovered from COVID-19)

Updated Guideline’s from AIDSInfo and the NIH

Johns Hopkins Infographic: View
Johns Hopkins Map: View

COVID Trends interactive Graph: View

Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV: View
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