These are difficult times for everyone. UNAIDS urges people to act with kindness, not stigma and discrimination - people affected by COVID-19 are part of the solution and must be supported.

Governments must respect the human rights and dignity of people affected by COVID-19. The experience gained with the HIV epidemic can be applied to the fight against COVID-19. As in the AIDS response, governments must work with communities to find local solutions. Key populations should not be the most affected by increased stigma and discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


We know that COVID-19 is a serious disease that will soon affect countries with the highest HIV burden. Everyone, including people living with HIV, should take the recommended precautions to reduce exposure to COVID-19:

  • Regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water or rubbing them with an alcohol-based disinfectant.
  • Keep at least 1 meter away from you and anyone who coughs or sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Make sure that you and those around you follow good respiratory hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow bent or with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and discard the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel bad. If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek medical attention and call ahead. Follow the instructions of your local health authority.

However, UNAIDS recognizes that in many countries, due to weak health care systems, informal settlements, overcrowding in cities and public transport, and the lack of clean water and sanitation, current self-protection approaches, social distancing and containment may not be feasible.

COVID-19 and people living with HIV

COVID-19 is a serious disease, and all people living with HIV should take all recommended preventive measures to minimize exposure and prevent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. As in the general population, older people living with HIV or people living with HIV with heart or lung problems may have an increased risk of becoming infected with the virus and suffering more severe symptoms. All people living with HIV should contact their health care providers to ensure that they have adequate stocks of essential drugs.

Despite the expansion of HIV treatment in recent years, 15 million people living with HIV do not have access to antiretroviral therapy, which can compromise their immune system.

We will learn more actively about how HIV and COVID-19 are affecting people living with HIV from country and community responses to both epidemics. Lessons learned regarding the implementation of innovations and adaptation of the supply system will be shared and imitated to minimize the impact on people living with HIV. Until more information becomes available, people living with HIV, especially those who are in an advanced stage of the disease or are not yet very controlled, should be cautious and pay attention to prevention measures and recommendations. . It is equally critical that people living with HIV have a multi-monthly refill of their HIV medications.


What UNAIDS is doing

UNAIDS is working with governments and community partners to:

  • Conduct surveys to assess information needs, available medication, and ability to access service support networks.
  • Find out if the multi-monthly dispensing of antiretroviral therapy is being fully implemented, and if not, identify how to implement it.
  • Assess the possibility of interruption of HIV services and develop plans for access to those services.

What UNAIDS recommends

HIV services should continue to be available to people living with or at risk of HIV. This includes ensuring the availability of condoms, opioid substitution therapy, sterile needles and syringes, harm reduction, pre-exposure prophylaxis and HIV testing.

To prevent people from running out of medicines and reduce the need to access the health system, countries should move to full implementation of the multi-monthly dispensation of three months or more of HIV treatment.

There must be access to COVID-19 services for vulnerable people, including a specific approach to reach the most marginalized and the removal of financial barriers, such as user fees.


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The texts on this site have been translated with: Google Translator