Q and A

Question

How can HIV positive people get special support for coronavirus in the UK?

Hi, I think my low CD4 count means that I qualify for special support to help with isolation because of coronavirus. I haven’t received a letter from my GP but my CD4 count is less than 50.

Answer

Thanks, you are right, you do qualify for special support. It is easy to get this – although slightly more complicated than it should be.

The UK government published six main health conditions for people who are at very high risk from coronavirus. This is the category of being “extremely vulnerable” and who are able to get special support. [1]

Although this list does not currently include HIV, the British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends that some HIV positive people should be classed as extremely vulnerable. Also that they should be able to access the same support. This includes having a very low CD4 count (less than 50 cells/mm3) or a recent  AIDS-defining illness within the last 6 months). [2]

If you fit into this category, contact your HIV doctor for a letter so you can register online for special support.

Special support includes getting delivery slots for supermarket food. This is because the advice is to stay home for three months, not even leaving to shop for food or to collect medicines. You need to apply for this online with your NHS number – or someone can do this for you. [3]

In order to register, you will need to say that you do have a defining medical condition on the list, even though HIV is not listed.

The website notes: “It may take time for any support offered through this service to arrive. Wherever possible you should continue to rely on friends, family and wider support to help you meet your needs”.

To add the the confusion, the NHS recently sent text message to lots of HIV positive people telling them they were in this highest risk group when they are not. See: Why is the NHS texting HIV positive people to stay at home?
http://i-base.info/qa/15648

References

  1. Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Updated 30 March 2020.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19#what-do-we-mean-by-extremely-vulnerable
  2. British HIV Association (BHIVA) and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) statement on COVID-19 and advice for the extremely vulnerable. (27 March 2020).
    https://www.bhiva.org/BHIVA-and-THT-statement-on-COVID-19-and-advice-for-the-extremely-vulnerable
  3. gov.uk.Get coronavirus support as a clinically extremely vulnerable person.
    https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable

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