Vaccines for people with HIV
The global health crisis has made very clear the importance of vaccines in saving lives. Although very often these substances are related to young children, we must not forget that adults also need to be immunized against certain germs.
Since vaccines, in general, are used to stimulate the immune system so that it can fight certain microorganisms in the future, certain doubts have arisen about whether or not a person with HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system, should or should not receive vaccinations. Here we clarify it for you.
Vaccines are designed to “train” the immune system to be able to recognize and then fight some germs that harm health. In this way, when the disease occurs, the body already has a strategy to respond to this invasion and eliminate the microorganism. Thus, the disease is completely avoided or the affected person will only present a mild picture of it.
Despite all the speculation about the various vaccines available, they have been widely tested for their efficacy and have also been shown to be safe, that is, they do not cause harm. In some cases, they can cause side effects, but these are usually limited to discomfort at the injection site and a fever that lasts a short time.
And if you look at it from a broader perspective, vaccines benefit not only individual people, but the whole community, since they reduce the risk of widespread epidemics.
Vaccines in people with HIV
In the case of HIV, for example, a vaccine has not yet been developed, so it is not yet possible to protect the population through this strategy. However, people who already have HIV can receive other vaccines that will help them stay healthier and avoid complications, just like the general population.
According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with HIV can be immunized (vaccinated) against several diseases or infections, mainly:
• Hepatitis B
• Human papilloma virus (HPV), especially at young ages
• Meningococcal disease (an acute and serious infection that can cause meningitis, that is, inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain)
• Pneumococcal pneumonia (a type of pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus)
• Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (which are usually combined into a single vaccine, known as TDT)
The medical team that cares for people with HIV can evaluate whether to administer other vaccines in addition to these, always according to the person’s age, their vaccination history, their risk factors or certain conditions that have to do with HIV.
Although the vaccines have been extensively tested and found to be safe to use, it is always recommended that people with HIV talk with their medical team to find out which vaccines they can receive and when.
Vaccinations and travel
Many places on the planet have endemic diseases, that is, characteristics of a specific geographical region, so travelers are often recommended to be vaccinated against these diseases.
Moreover, frequently, the places that present these risks require vaccination as a requirement to enter the country. Cholera and yellow fever are just a few examples of these diseases.
If you live with HIV and plan to travel to a region that requires vaccination, contact your medical team to find out what vaccines you can apply, in addition to those that are required, to better take care of your health during your trip.
And remember that a strong immune system will be effective in protecting you, and this can only be achieved with adequate antiretroviral treatment. If you had to suspend your treatment or if you still haven’t started it, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you, just come to our offices, we are in 11 countries in the region.