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Canceling Is Kindness: Keeping Safe From COVID-19 With HIV

Posted on March 20, 2020
Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

According to Harvard Medical School, some people living with HIV or AIDS may have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that risk for people with HIV from COVID-19 is not yet known, but may differ based on an individual's CD4 count and whether they are taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). Hopefully, more research will become available soon.

Fortunately, social distancing is a powerful tool to slow or prevent the spread of infection. Social distancing only works when everyone stays home and limits their contact with others.

When Friends or Family Aren't Worried

Some of us have family members or friends who think the threat of the virus is being blown out of proportion. They may pressure you to join in activities as usual or become upset when you cancel plans to help keep yourself and your community safe during this high-risk time.

Here are some tactics that may help you talk to them about why health — yours, theirs, and the community's — should be everyone's first priority right now.

Have a Heart-to-Heart

Ask them to walk in your shoes. Ask them to imagine what you must be going through. Maybe your loved one will be fine, but you may be more vulnerable to not only getting the virus, but also being severely impacted by it.

Show Them the Numbers

According to research on COVID-19 in China, people who had one additional disease — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to cancer — had a 79 percent higher risk of requiring intensive care, needing a respirator, or dying as a result of the coronavirus infection.

Six in 10 adults in America have at least one chronic illness.

Put It Into Perspective

The threat of COVID-19 was deemed serious enough to affect major institutions:

  • Walt Disney World and Disneyland are closed. These attractions have previously only closed for disasters such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
  • Las Vegas Strip casinos including Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Wynn Las Vegas, and Wynn Encore are closing.
  • The NBA has suspended the professional basketball season.
  • MLB has ended its training season and pushed back the start of baseball season at least two weeks.
  • The 2020 Summer Olympics may be canceled or postponed.

These organizations are prioritizing public health over the hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) they will lose by closing. If we can stay home, we should stay home.

Use Peer Pressure

If you have any other friends or family who are taking the coronavirus threat seriously, ask them to talk to that loved one on your behalf. Social distancing only works if everyone is on board.

Distance Doesn't Mean Isolation

As our families, communities, and countries make it through this pandemic together, it's more important than ever to find ways to stay connected. Here are a few suggestions for ways to socialize from a safe distance.

  • Phone calls. Being stuck at home is a great time to call people and catch up.
  • Video gatherings. FaceTime or apps like Zoom or Skype can allow you to see and hear each other, no matter how distant, on mobile phone, tablet, or computer. You can even have a party with dozens of people on screen.
  • Gaming apps. Many mobile gaming apps allow you to connect and play with friends remotely.
  • Movie night. Cue up the same movie or show (whether on a streaming service or a DVD you both have) and stay on the phone or on video chat the whole time. You can even plan to eat the same snack while you watch and talk.
  • Listening party. Music apps, such as Spotify, allow people to share music playlists and even collaborate to create lists of songs.

Sharing on myHIVteam is another way our community of more than 26,000 members living with HIV stays strong together. Here are a few conversations about how members of myHIVteam are getting through this difficult time:

Have you found ways to talk to your loved ones about COVID-19 safety measures? What are you doing to stay connected to others during this time of heightened concern and social distancing? Share in the comments below or post on myHIVteam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

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