Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Health, Guyana, urges Persons Living with HIV to protect themselves against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated.
During the COVID-19 update on Monday, Minister Anthony noted that this is important because the immune system of a Person Living with HIV is more susceptible to the virus, especially if that person is not on medication.
“It is recommended that persons with HIV take the COVID-19 vaccine because it’s going to protect them. The benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the risk of being vaccinated. In some cases, persons whose immune systems are compromised, some of those patients it’s also recommended that they get a third dose of the vaccine or a booster shot,” Dr Anthony said.
He said persons could use any of the vaccines available in Guyana, which are being used for the adult population. These include the Johnson and Johnson, Sputnik V, Sinopharm, or Astra Zeneca.
The minister noted that persons currently taking ARVs (antiretrovirals) or PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) should not worry about adverse effects of the vaccine, as these work differently in the body.
“The mechanism of action are totally different; vaccines help to stimulate the immune system so that your body can produce antibodies that can fight off COVID-19 virus. Antiretrovirals -they work differently, they interrupt the life cycle of the HIV and therefore their actions are totally different, and there is no interaction between the two,” Dr Anthony explained.
Persons with HIV are advised to follow the recommended protocols as the general population to guard against contracting the disease. These include wearing masks, proper hand sanitisation and social distancing.
“There are lots of hesitancy among the HIV population, they probably have various myths about why they shouldn’t be vaccinated, but all the evidence is pointing that they need to be vaccinated,” the minister said.
Up to 2019, the estimated number of People Living with HIV in Guyana numbered over eight thousand.
Meanwhile, for COVID-19 infections, the health ministry reports some 3,907 active cases, with 59 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours. The data also shows a slight decrease of cases in Region Four, with increases in Regions Two, Three and Ten.
There are 107 persons in hospitals across the country, with 72 of those persons currently at the Ocean View Hospital, 24 of which are in the ICU. Six are maternal cases.
Also, so far, 373,398 persons have been vaccinated with the first dose of a covid vaccine, representing 72.8 per cent of the adult population, while 231,729 persons have been fully vaccinated, amounting to 45.2 per cent of the adult population.
For the adolescent population, 26,391 children have taken the first dose Pfizer vaccine, amounting to 36.2 per cent of that population, while 17,379 are fully vaccinated, representing 2.5 per cent of the adolescent population.