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By Theresa Goodwin

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People living with HIV in Antigua and Barbuda will be better able to stave off the effects of the coronavirus once they keep up to date with their medication and take the additional precautionary measures.

This is according to the manager of the National AIDS Programme, Delcora Williams, who said that officials at the AIDS Secretariat have been working overtime to convey the message to people who fall into this category.

She said that while little is known about the effect Covid-19 will have on HIV positive patients, this has to be treated as any other virus which can negatively affect their already compromised immune systems.

“We continue to educate our patients about the fact that they need to take their medication. Covid-19 is a virus, and they are taking antiretroviral drugs so they would be in a good position if they take their meds,” Williams said.

She said over the past few weeks, the department has intensified its education campaign by promoting the importance of remaining in care and treatment and following stipulated guidelines as laid out by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Officials at the AIDS Secretariat have also reached out to patients who were not accessing care and treatment from the facility to ensure that they too are informed about the importance of practicing proper hygiene and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“With every condition where your immune system is compromised, whether it is HIV, diabetes, hypertension and other issues, you have to take the necessary precautions,” Williams said.

“Because their immune systems are vulnerable, we always tell them if they see someone sneezing, coughing and other sickness to run. We are hoping that this is ingrained in them and they will understand and continue to protect themselves.”

Earlier this week, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released a statement saying that people living with HIV should take all the recommended preventative measures to minimise exposure to and prevent infection by the virus.

The international organisation stated that it was important to note that there is currently no concrete evidence to show that people living with HIV are at an especially increased risk of contracting Covid-19, or if they do contract it they will experience a worse outcome.

However, this does not mean that people living with HIV should take Covid-19 lightly and they must take all precautions to protect themselves.

UNAIDS also encouraged people in this category to practice the regular handwashing methods, stay at home when they are ill, stay away from sick people, know the facts about Covid-19 by checking a reliable source, and to ensure they have at least 30 days or more supply of medication.

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