Effective ways to prevent the spread of either the flu or 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). ***UPDATED: 22 April

A stream of water spills onto a person's hands. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Positive Life NSW is aware some uncertainty continues for people living with HIV around the emergence of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The current information for people living with HIV is that we are at no greater risk than those identified within the general population.

Those most likely to experience more severe illness from COVID-19 are older people over 60 years of age, people who are immune-compromised (defined as CD4 count below 200 cells/mL or not on antiretroviral therapy to treat their HIV) or who are taking immunosuppressive therapy (e.g. for a kidney, lung or liver transplant) or have a respiratory (lung) or heart condition. Other people at higher risk are those who smoke which affects overall lung health.

For people within the community who are concerned about their health, consider carrying hand sanitiser with you and use it after you have touched surfaces such as handrails, door handles, ATM machines and counters. Look for hand sanitiser to use when arriving at clinics or other public venues. Continue to maintain good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly when you get home.

Positive Life has been advised by drug companies that there is at least 12 months’ supply of antiretrovirals in stock in Australia. We would suggest you keep at least one month’s supply in case you need to self-quarantine.

If you are planning to travel overseas, please check with www.smartraveller.gov.au for any warnings on your destination and also discuss your travel intention and destination with your HIV specialist.

There is some level of unnecessary worry and anxiety about COVID-19. Take care around your engagement with social media, word-of-mouth, and other media outlets, especially in regard to misinformation. The Australian Department of Health which has a Coronavirus hotline on 1800 020 080 and a regularly updated webpage..

Hand hygiene – Wash your hands frequently using soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub to eliminate the virus on your hands.

Respiratory hygiene – Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing by using a tissue or into your elbow, discard tissues immediately and clean your hands. For the use of masks see the section on personal protective equipment.

Public Health Messaging – there are regular updates about COVID-19 from public health agencies, both NSW Health and the Australian Health Department. Keep an eye out for these and please take note of the recommendations.

What should I be doing?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you're out and about, an alcohol-based hand liquid can be a useful alternative.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes by using your elbow or a tissue that should be discarded immediately, and wash your hands.
  • Try to avoid touching your face as this may transfer organisms to your mouth, nose or eyes from surfaces you may have touched. On average we touch our faces about 200 times a day.
  • If you are unwell, stay at home and ring Health Direct (1800 022 222), or your local Emergency Department or your GP, for further information.
  • Talk with your doctor about staying up-to-date with your vaccinations and getting your annual flu shot in March or April.
  • Keep an eye out for further updates from Positive Life NSW.

Where can I get further information and support if I am still concerned or planning to travel overseas?

Remember you are not alone. If you are a person living with HIV feeling anxious, isolated or alone or caring for someone living with HIV and not sure where to seek help, call and speak to one of our Peer Support or Treatments Officers at Positive Life NSW on (02) 9206 2177 or 1800 245 677 (free call) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Page Updated: 22 April 2020

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Images used are stock photos and do not imply any HIV status, sexuality or behaviours.