Q and A

Question

Do HIV positive folks need a face mask to prevent COVID-19?

Hi, I see some people wearing face masks and worry that I can’t get one. How important is this?

Answer

Hi

Thanks for your question.

Easy answer is no. Unless you are a health worker, or in a similar high contact job, there is no reason to worry. Another reason to need one though is if you have symptoms and need to travel urgently.

  • Medical mask are currently in very limited supply. The current shortage means they should be a priority for health workers.
  • Masks are more to protect other people than to reduce personal risk. They should be used by people who currently have symptoms. But having symptoms means you should already be physically distancing or self isolating. Masks do minimise risks to others. If you need to visit a clinic because of serious symptoms tell the clinic when you arrive and ask for a mask. Limited supply might not make this possible.
  • Wearing a mask might be or become a social message about looking after other people (rather than protecting yourself). This is social though and will vary in different cultures and times. Some countries have been used to wearing masks long before the current coronavirus epidemic.
  • If you like the solidarity message perhaps make a mask with other material – ie a bandana approach. This can show you are aware of protecting others but aren’t using scarce medical supplies :)
These links include other information about COVID-19 – the NYC link is especially good.
HIV and coronavirus (COVID-19): are HIV positive people at higher risk?
http://i-base.info/qa/15483
Is PrEP affected by coronavirus and COVID-19?
What is difference between self-distancing and self-isolation for HIV and COVID-19
http://i-base.info/qa/15578
US interim guidelines on COVID-19 and HIV

Sex and COVID-19 (New York City)
This information (online as a PDF file) includes positive information about how to manage a safer approach to sex during the coronavirus health crisis. It covers the safety of sex with yourself and of virtual sex including if your job currently includes sex work.

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