The National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) has through the National Executive Director Khanya Mabuza issued a statement that serves not only to urge but also remind PLHIV to stay safe and protect themselves for the coronavirus.
The statement on COVID-19 and impact on People Living with HIV (PLHIV) has since Friday 27 March 2020, been circulated in local print media and social media platforms. Part of the statement states that:
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately at the nearest health facility
- If you have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading or have been in contact with anyone who had travelled outside the country, seek medical care early.
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub (sanitizer) or wash them with soap and water.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose off the used tissue immediately.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever or cough.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. Remember to wear medical mask and stay away from others.
The statement also reminds PLHIV to have their supply of their necessary medical supplies on hand, ideally for 30 days or more, especially because the WHO HIV Treatment Guidelines now recommend multi-months or more of HIV medicines for most people at routine visits.
The statement further encourages PLHIV to know how to contact their clinic or service provider by telephone in the event they need advice related to their condition and HIV treatment. PLHIV should try access treatment and other support within their communities, treatment could include antiretroviral therapy, tuberculosis medication. They should reach out to their local Support Group or Support Organization by electronic means such as social media and ensure that support group meetings are limited to fewer participants.
The statement further pleads with HIV positive persons who are not enrolled on treatment to start taking treatment. People who are HIV positive but are not on treatment are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus and this would be classified as a pre-existing condition and thus such persons may face serious adverse effects of the COVID-19. People who do not know their HIV status are advised to test for HIV and enroll on ART.