Latest Updates on COVID-19 for people living with HIV in Queensland
20th May 2020
QPP would like to acknowledge the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) announcement of the official names for the virus responsible for COVID-19 (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) and the disease it causes.
Please note: to prevent any confusion in information and resources, material published before the virus was officially named will not be updated unless necessary in order to avoid confusion.
Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it
Official names have been announced for the virus responsible for COVID-19 (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) and the disease it causes. The official names are:
severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
Why do the virus and the disease have different names?
Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names. For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People often know the name of a disease, but not the name of the virus that causes it.
There are different processes, and purposes, for naming viruses and diseases.
Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Virologists and the wider scientific community do this work, so viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment. Human disease preparedness and response is WHO’s role, so diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
ICTV announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.
WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
What name does WHO use for the virus?
From a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003.
For that reason and others, WHO has begun referring to the virus as “the virus responsible for COVID-19” or “the COVID-19 virus” when communicating with the public. Neither of these designations are intended as replacements for the official name of the virus as agreed by the ICTV.
Material published before the virus was officially named will not be updated unless necessary in order to avoid confusion.
7th May 2020
There are numerous sources of online information on Coronavirus. QPP has selected a few resources for you to read according to what you want to know:
What is Coronavirus COVID-19?
For up-to-date Australian information and resources on COVID-19 novel coronavirus visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.
To help you understand the facts and avoid the myths of COVID-19, please visit the Queensland Health website.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? How is different than flu and cold?
The Australian Government Department of Health has created a table to help you understand the differences between COVID-19, flu, and cold.
Are people living with HIV at more risk of contracting COVID-19? What do we need to know?
- An HIV-positive person on effective treatment is not expected to be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19
- A person with untreated HIV or a low CD4+ cell count may be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19
We are still learning about this new virus. Our communities are diverse and COVID-19 will affect people differently. Some people will have few symptoms or may even be asymptomatic, some will have more severe symptoms and may need hospitalisation. Whilst we know that the people outlined above are more likely to experience more severe symptoms – COVID-19 can be very serious for younger people as well. There is no evidence so far to suggest that people living with HIV, who are on effective antiretroviral therapies with undetectable viral loads, are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 infection or developing severe disease.
The Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria has released a factsheet for people living with HIV.
CATIE (Canada’s source of HIV and Hepatitis information) has developed FAQ webpage for people living with HIV.
UNAIDS has released a piece of one-page information on COVID-19 and HIV.
Life4me+ has also provided frequently asked questions (FAQ) for PLHIV around the world.
How to protect yourself and others from COVID-19?
Queensland Health has provided a dedicated webpage to help you understand how to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
What is COVIDSafe App? How does COVIDSafe App Work?
What is self-quarantine? How is it different than self-isolation?
While both will limit your movements, self-quarantine is for well people to do just in case they’re carrying the virus. People who are actually sick with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will be asked to self-isolate – depending on how unwell they are, this may be done at home or in a healthcare facility. You can find the differences between self-quarantine and self-isolation from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Queensland Health websites.
For more information on self-quarantine, please check Queensland Health website.
Can I still have sex during the COVID-19 outbreak? Is coronavirus sexually transmitted?
We don’t know for certain if the virus is sexually transmittable though the epidemiological patterns don’t indicate sexual transmission so far. QPP supports the message from ACON in NSW and Thorne Harbour Health in Victoria that we should avoid casual sex to reduce close contact and maintain physical distancing.
For those who have further questions regarding sex with your partner who lives with you, regular partners who don’t live with you, and other sexual practices, you may want to read the following article from VeryWell Health and another article with three experts on The Guardian.
Please read the Home Confinement, Movement, and Gathering Direction to ensure that you understand the restrictions surrounding visitations, gatherings, and travel.
How do I keep myself safe using recreational drugs during this outbreak?
Harm Reduction Coalition has published a resource to keep yourself safe.
Who do I need to contact if I develop symptoms of COVID-19? How can I get tested?
We recommend you take the Queensland Health Novel Coronavirus Quiz for the most up to date advice.
You can also seek information regarding testing or patient welfare by contacting Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080 (24 hours a day, seven days a week) or 13 HEALTH (43 25 84).
Can I still attend my regular check-up with my HIV clinician/s100 Prescribers during the outbreak?
Please contact the clinic that you usually go to. The clinic or you may want to consider telehealth appointments.
I am taking anti-viral medications – will they protect me from COVID-19?
We don’t know the answers to this yet. Researchers are working to find an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. There have been reports of a few HIV drugs being trialed as treatment for COVID-19. There is no reliably confirmed evidence at this stage that any HIV drugs are effective in treating COVID-19. Being on anti-viral medication for HIV (including PrEP), hepatitis C or hepatitis B, has not been shown to provide protection from COVID-19.
Does Coronavirus COVID-19 affect the supply of HIV medications to Australia?
NAPWHA, the peak national organisation for PLHIV in Australia, is maintaining contact with suppliers of anti-retroviral medications in Australia. Those suppliers assure NAPWHA that supply of anti-retroviral medication has not been impacted by COVID-19, and that sufficient supply is available to meet demand. The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the government body responsible for approving medicines in Australia, is also working to ensure continuity of Australia’s medicine supply.
We should avoid stockpiling all medications, as this could cause unnecessary shortages. People living with HIV should consider having at least a one-month supply of HIV medication on hand to accommodate the potential need to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.
We appreciate there are also some concerns with respect to PLHIV being required to attend hospitals or pharmacies more regularly than usual. Australia Post and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have worked together to offer pharmacies the option of delivering prescriptions to people’s homes. Pharmacies can sign up using the steps here. Given the concentration of people from our communities accessing particular pharmacies, you might want to consider approaching pharmacies to encourage them to sign up, with the possibility of then highlighting to communities the pharmacies that offer this option. Some pharmacy chains also offer online delivery themselves, including Amcal and Chemist Warehouse.
What if I am not eligible for Medicare?
People who are ineligible for Medicare and unable to access HIV medications, please contact QPP to discuss access to the HIV Emergency Treatment Fund. See the QPP Medicare Ineligible Factsheet for information on accessing HIV care and treatment in Queensland. It is available in English, Amharic, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili.
I can’t go back to my home country due to the travel ban that will not allow me to come back to Australia. How can I access HIV medications?
If you are a temporary visa holder isolated in Queensland by the travel restrictions pertaining to COVID-19, you can contact public sexual health clinics or Queensland Positive People to arrange access to HIV medications.
Is QPP still holding social groups and events?
QPP has suspended all face to face gatherings, social groups, and public events until further notice.
However, our social groups will be moving online in the near future. Keep an eye on the QPP website and Facebook for updates.
Is QPP still providing services?
QPP services are still operating and staff are here to provide support and assistance for people living with HIV and at risk of HIV/STIs.
While we have had to temporarily change the way we deliver some of our services, our peer navigators, case managers, and peer testers continue to provide testing and practical assistance. We also have some funds available to assist in emergency relief situations.
Life + Program
QPP can provide support with:
- Social and emotional peer support and peer navigation to support you with an HIV diagnosis and HIV treatment and care
- Warm phone Line
- OLARK-online chat
- Zoom -online face to face meetings
- Practical assistance with accessing medications, clinical services, food, housing, and other essential support services
- Information and support with stigma, discrimination, migration and the law.
- Emergency Relief Funding
RAPID HIV/STI Testing
QPP’s RAPID HIV/STI testing clinic on Winn St, The Valley – Brisbaneremains open at this stage with additional triage protocols in place and we are limiting the numbers of clients in the waiting room. Unfortunately our outreach visits to sex on premises venues and universities have temporarily been put on hold due to the COCVID-19 closures of universities and sex on premises venues. We are also exploring a range of alternative HIV/STI testing models such as the online ordering of HIV self-testing kits.
Please go the RAPID website for up to date information regarding the clinic.
Am I still allowed to attend QPP office?
QPP’s priority is the safety and well-being of our clients, staff and community. With duty of care in mind, QPP is embracing physical distancing public health measures and temporarily changing the way we deliver some of our services. Our office is currently unstaffed as staff are working remotely to continue supporting PLHIV in Queensland.
For assistance, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and free call 1800 636 241. Please divert any posts delivery to PO Box 7403 East Brisbane QLD 4169.
QPP is committed to providing you with up-to-date and accurate information on the impacts of COVID-19 for PLHIV in Queensland. We encourage you to engage with our Peer Navigator through our online chat system, Olark, and also through phone, which you can access by completing the self-referral form. Please remember that our services are still open for you.
15th April 2020
QPP’s Mark (president) and Melissa (CEO) took some time out to provide an update around our on-going response to the COVID-19 situation.
23 March 2020
The health and wellbeing of our staff, clients, and the community during the current COVID-19 pandemic is our number one priority. We have been actively monitoring, implementing risk management strategies and planning for all stages of this rapidly evolving situation.
With this duty of care at the forefront of our minds, QPP is responding by proactively embracing public health measures and temporarily changing the way we deliver some of our services.
The purpose of these response measures is to protect vulnerable members of our community and slow the spread of the virus, so it does not overwhelm the Australian health system.
QPP has put all social group, community consultations and other group meetings on hold until further notice. However, we have developed innovative solutions to deliver our services in different ways to ensure continuity and maintain our focus on support for people living with HIV and prevention.
Life + Program
Individualised services such as case management and peer navigation will continue to be provided as much as possible. Each person’s needs and circumstances will be assessed to determine how best to deliver the services – by phone/text or online format such as video chat, and in person if required. If you are experiencing any challenges in accessing HIV medications, food, are homeless or have any other current supports please contact our case management team on 1800 636 241 or at email@example.com
If you are experiencing increased stress or anxiety in relation to HIV & COVID19 please reach out to our Peer Navigation team, also people living with HIV. They are here to provide you with emotional and social support online or by phone. Chat online now with one of our Peer Navigators by visiting our website qpp.org.au or phone 1800 636 241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RAPID HIV/STI Testing Program
QPP’s RAPID HIV/STI testing program remains open at this stage with additional triage protocols in place and we are limiting the numbers of clients in the waiting room. We are also exploring a range of alternative HIV/STI testing models such as the online ordering of self-testing kits.
Please go the RAPID website for up to date information on services.
Please see the additional following websites for the most up to date information and resources on COVID-19 and HIV:
- Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine COVID-19
- AFAO,ASHM and NAPWHA Factsheet on COVID-19 and HIV
- The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention : COVID-19 – What people with HIV should know
- CATIE: COVID-19, HIV and Hepatitis C: What you need to know
In these times of uncertainty and turmoil, disruption and fear can occur. However, it is important that we remain authentically connected to our shared humanitarian values of freedom, respect, equality and dignity. To maintain social cohesion, it will be vital that human rights remain at the forefront of our minds and that we work together in the spirit of co-operation and togetherness that has seen us overcome difficult times in our past. Stigmatising behaviour of people with COVID-19 may occur in society, so let’s all work together to reduce that with compassion, because we’ve all seen how that’s negatively played out in the past.
We will continue to provide regular updates as this situation progresses and we continue to innovate and find silver linings in these challenging times.
10 March 2020
QPP would like to acknowledge that we are on alert at the moment regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
As there has now been person-to-person transmission of the virus throughout Australia some PLHIV may be feeling particularly vulnerable – especially if you have comorbidities and are of older age. COVID-19 is a new virus and respiratory illness and there is some uncertainty about what will happen and how fast the virus may spread within Australia.
As of 8th March 2020, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises that the risk to the general Australian population from COVID-19 is low, with the majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia in returned travelers. However, State and Federal Governments have increased their efforts to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
AFAO, NAPWHA and ASHM have authored a comprehensive fact sheet for the PLHIV and LGBTI communities on Coronavirus. The fact sheet covers important questions on transmission and prevention, medication and general health. The factsheet can be accessed by clicking here.
02 March 2020
QPP would like to acknowledge that we are on ‘alert’ at the moment with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) Some PLHIV may be feeling particularly vulnerable, especially if you have several health co-morbidities and are of older age. COVID-19 is a new virus and respiratory illness and there is some uncertainty about what will happen and how fast the virus may spread to Australia.
Reassuringly, there has been no evidence of sustained human to human transmission of the virus in the Australian community to date. The Australian and Queensland Governments are confirming that the isolation procedures have been highly effective and are ensuring the safety and welfare of the Australian community.
However, if a global pandemic develops, it would be challenging to prevent widespread community transmission in Australia.
Accordingly, Australia is engaging in pandemic preparedness activities and response work is being undertaken across Queensland.
So, what can we do now?
The most important way to prevent the spread of either the flu or coronavirus is to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene:
- Frequently washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs
- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow – discard tissues immediately and wash hands.
- Stay one metre away from people coughing or sneezing.
- Try to avoid touching your face as this may transfer organisms to your mouth, nose and eyes from surfaces you may have touched.
- If you are unwell with a fever and cough, stay at home and seek medical advice early.
Being prepared is about talking with your doctor about staying up to date with your vaccinations, including the annual flu vaccine.
We also have a window of opportunity to make some other practical preparations should this situation continue for some time or if we experience local waves of transmission.
- Ensure you have good supplies of HIV and other medications.
- If you are travelling – keep up to date with self-quarantine requirements.
- Slowly stock up on non-perishable food.
What is QPP doing?
QPP is closely monitoring the constantly changing situation through working with Queensland Health and our sister organisations and peaks in Queensland and around Australia. We are also developing an organisational response plan should there be disruption to QPP or other services and supplies around us.
QPP is continuing with business as usual at this stage and we will keep you updated should there be any changes to our services and operations.
What is happening with the social groups in the meantime?
QPP will contact social group coordinators to discuss individual group plans in relation to social group events and will update the QPP website on status of individual social groups.
Keep track of events and social groups at https://www.qpp.org.au/events/
Further information and advice
For further information on who is at high risk, transmission and prevention – please click to the Australian Government webpage, which is updated daily.
There is a 24/7 Coronavirus Health Information Line – 1800 020 080
Queensland Health have prepared a number of fact sheets and Frequently Asked Questions are also available – please click here to visit the Queensland Health website.
For a factsheet about the 2019 novel coronavirus and people on antiviral medication (HIV treatment, HCV treatment, as well as HIV PrEP) – please click to the AFAO, ASHM, NAPWHA Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) sector release
The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual have also released Information for clinicians and patients.