People with HIV can now get a Covid vaccine without worrying about stigma - here’s how

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 9:47 am
People with HIV can now get a Covid vaccine without worrying about stigma - here’s how (Photo: Shutterstock)

Anyone living with HIV in England and Wales can now receive a Covid vaccine without having to disclose their HIV status to a GP.

New guidance published by NHS England says that people with HIV can now go through specialist clinics in order to receive the vaccine, as many sufferers are not comfortable sharing their status.

Health professionals had expressed concern about uptake among those living with HIV, due to concerns over the stigma which still exists around the condition.

In 2019, it was estimated that there were 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK, according to the National AIDS Trust. Around 94 per cent of these people are diagnosed and are aware of it.

What about Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The updated guidance from NHS England comes after NHS Wales amended its own last week. MPs are now calling on the Scottish and Northern Irish authorities to do the same.

While anyone with HIV should be automatically prioritised for the vaccine as part of the nine groups most at risk, it might not have been offered, as GPs may not know the HIV status of some patients.

People living with HIV are advised to inform their GP of their condition in order to guarantee they get the best healthcare service possible. However, NHS England’s LGBT health advisor, Dr Michael Brady, said that local HIV clinics are now able to arrange a vaccination, “for those not comfortable” informing their GP.

‘Great news’

Ian Green, Head of the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV charity, said: "Some may be surprised to hear that a significant number of people living with HIV feel unable to talk to their GP about their HIV status, but this underlines how much stigma still surrounds the virus even in 2021.

"This is great news and the right decision from the NHS as it means people living with HIV will be able to take up the potentially life-saving Covid-19 vaccine at their earliest opportunity.

"We are working towards a society where everyone living with HIV feels comfortable sharing their status with their doctor and other health professionals, but we're not there yet and we welcome this fast, pragmatic action."