QPP COVID-19 Community Update – 7th May 2020

Posted in COVID-19 Updates on

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?

Full information on COVIDSafe App can be found here. You can read the privacy policy for COVIDSafe App here.

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
    • Phone/text
    • 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 info@qpp.org.au 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