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By Leon Norville

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Antigua and Barbuda’s HIV/AIDS Clinical Care Coordinator, Dr Maria Pereira, said patients who are HIV positive can be safely vaccinated against the coronavirus disease, once their immune system is healthy.

She explained a healthy immune system in an HIV patient means that they have a CD-4 cell count that is higher than 200 cells and they are virally suppressed.

Caution was however suggested by the local doctor who said, Stage 4 HIV/AIDS patients or people with a CD 4 count lower than 200 cells should seek advice from their doctors or the AIDS secretariat regarding if they are healthy enough to be vaccinated depending on their individual health situation.

Dr Pereira said that, to date, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) settled that coronavirus vaccines are safe for use in HIV patients based on clinical trials.

She also confirmed to date that about 60 percent of HIV patients who attend the Clinical Care Coordinator’s clinic through the Ministry of Health have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with minimal to no side effects or adverse reactions.

 “Our HIV patients are very aware of their health, so when Covid-19 became evident towards the end of 2019, our patients were already prepared,” she added.

Dr Pereira also encouraged people with kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, and sickle cell disease to take the vaccine.