Updates on COVID-19 and HIV

Updates on COVID-19 and HIV

In this webinar, held on 1 March 2022, ASHM brings together speakers from health, research, and the HIV community to discuss COVID-19 and HIV.

Speakers presented COVID-19 information specific to people living with HIV, including updates on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, as well as the latest clinical guidance on HIV and COVID-19 co-infection. So, what does this all mean for healthcare workers providing care to people living with HIV and current guidance on managing COVID?

Under the Strain: Join us for an online webinar during lockdown

With our Australian States currently in varying restrictions or lockdown, the stay-at-home directives may find us feeling stuck, under the strain, or plain overwhelmed by the barrage of unfolding information.

NAPWHA invited its communities, the HIV sector, including healthcare and community health workers to an one-hour online webinar on Tuesday 6 July 2021 at 6PM (AEST).

Panelists shared information about good coping strategies for mental health and also spoke about vaccines, the changing vaccine rollout, and what we know about new viral strains.

This webinar recording is available here:

  • 0:00 Aaron Cogle (NAPWHA Executive Director) acknowledgement of country and NAIDOC week; introduction of panelists
  • 4:31 Pre-recording of Ruth Hennessy (Head psychologist from Albion Centre, Sydney) speaking with Dr John Rule (NAPWHA Senior Research Manager)
  • 18:01 Dr Liz Crock (Nurse Practitioner) speaking with Richard Keane (Living Positive Victoria CEO)
  • 40:25 Panel Q&A

Video:  Watch a short interview recorded with Professor Jennifer Hoy (HIV Clinical Director of Alfred Health, Victoria) and Sarah Feagan (NAPWHA Vice President) on 6 July 2021 regarding the vaccine roll-out and people with HIV.

Treatment Outreach Network 2020 meeting held online during COVID-19 restrictions

NAPWHA’s Treatment Outreach Network – a membership of professionals from Australian State and Territory peer-based organisations and AIDS Councils, held their annual formal meeting via video conferencing during this time of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hosted and facilitated by NAPWHA, the network work together to optimise the overall wellbeing of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and those affected by HIV, by providing a high standard of information and care on issues of health and treatments for HIV.

Two video conference calls were held on 8 and 15 April 2020 to hold initial roundtable discussion regarding disruptions to frontline services and responses to the impact of COVID19. A third video call hosted various presenters speaking on themed subjects, including Dr Elizabeth Crock, Vikas Parwani, Dr Darren Russell, and Associate Professor Edwina Wright. Video recordings of these sessions are featured below.

Referral pathways to PLHIV services and Nurse Practitioner community practicing

Dr Liz Crock (HIV Clinical Nurse Consultant) provided members with a question and answer (Q&A) session that allows members to better understand the referral processes and navigating social services for ancillary care arrangements for clients living with HIV.

Government Funded Income Support during COVID-19: Who’s eligible and who’s left behind

Vikas Parwani (Solicitor of The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre – HALC) provided members with a presentation on the delivery of current information on welfare service supports.

Clinical supports for PLHIV during COVID-19 including telehealth and CovidSafe app

Dr Darren Russell (Director of Sexual Health, Cairns Hospital) provided members a presentation and Q&A about clinical supports that are being put into place to enable people living with HIV (PLHIV) to better access services and understand the current situation in relation to COVID-19.

  • Could you give us some of your thinking on the [Australian Government’s] COVID Safe Tracking app launched on 26 April 2020 and people living with HIV – e.g. public health benefits versus privacy concerns?
  • Do you see the COVID Safe Tracking app being used in [workplace setting] as a [mandatory] occupational health and safety tool?
  • Is it possible that those protection laws may change down the line? Who is going to ask permission from you to access your information?
  • Could you tell us a bit about Telehealth from the clinical perspective? What’s working, what’s not? Will we in Australia be seeing it stick around?
  • What privacy and confidentiality measures are put into place for people sending data and information in through Telehealth platforms (e.g. video calls, SMS?)
  • Are numbers of people presenting at clinics and HIV-STI notifications going down or changing during this period?

Current data on COVID-19 and how it applies to PLHIV

Associate Professor Edwina Wright (Head of HIV Prevention Service, Department of Infectious Diseases, Alfred Hospital and Central Clinical School, Monash University) provided members a presentation and Q&A about the most current data on COVID-19 and how it applies to PLHIV, their treatment and long-term health.

Edwina is the Chair of ASHM’s Taskforce on BBVs, Sexual Health and COVID-19 was established on 20 March 2020. It provides a timely opportunity for the BBV and sexual health sectors to discuss the scientific, clinical, BBV and sexual health service delivery and social implications of COVID-19, and provides consistent and evidence-based messaging to the health workforce, sector partners and community.

About the NAPWHA Treatment Outreach Network

The Treatment Outreach Network (TON) is a network of professionals working together to optimise the overall wellbeing of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and those affected by HIV, by providing a high standard of information and care on issues of health and treatments for HIV.

The membership of Treatments Officers throughout Australia and New Zealand, working for their State and Territory peer-based organisations and AIDS Councils are called together by NAPWHA under this program to provide peer support/navigation and to promote the sharing of information. The network meets formally once per year and informal communication occurs throughout the rest of the year to continue the work of the network.

Physical Distancing + Social Connection

As COVID-19 brings in unprecedented measures on how we interact and live our lives, the sense of disconnect has become a challenge for many of us. Even the language of social distancing and isolation can be triggering when contact, intimacy, and togetherness play such a big part in our lives.

As COVID-19 took hold, in places like China and Italy amazing videos started to surface. People began connecting through dance, joining in communal song from their balconies; Police officers in Spain showed their lighter side in a time of crisis and performed Baby Shark for children unable to play outside.

Reframing the concept to one of “physical distancing + social connection” is the first step. We are for the most part living in an accessible digital age and technology can be a tool to help us interact, maintain relationships and entertain ourselves.

In challenging times, a lot of creativity and compassion is born and that is especially true now. Social media has never felt more social. Businesses and performers have had to adjust and be nimble with how they engage with us. Applications like Zoom, once used for business meetings, are now used for dinner parties and drinks among friends. There are mechanisms to watch Netflix and play board games with your loved ones live on the Internet. Entertainers from all fields are bringing content online, from drag shows to dance parties to live music. And the vast majority of it is free. There is an understanding that even though this situation is difficult, we are all in the same boat doing the best we can to stay in touch and smile and persevere.

How we interact may have changed but there is evidence of a very real and unwavering sense of solidarity, resilience, and connection all around us… You just have to hit the reset button and join in.

This article was originally written for the MyLife+ App

Managing community concerns about ARV supply

The importance of consistent HIV health sector messaging

The current COVID-19 crisis has raised concerns about HIV treatment supply in Australia. Despite continued assurances that supply is not, nor is likely to be compromised, rumours to the contrary persist.

This speculation has the potential to raise anxiety levels and cause consumer panic. Maintaining message consistency across the HIV health workforce is vitally important at this time.

When patients or customers register concern about the supply of HIV medications, please reassure them with the following messages:

  1. The pharmaceutical companies that supply antiretrovirals (ARVs) in Australia have given assurances that there is no shortage. There are enough HIV treatments in the country right now to meet the needs of people with HIV for many months.
  2. Stock-outs or delays in re-stocking ARVs at a local pharmacy does not mean that national supply is limited.
  3. In the unlikely event of an impending shortage of a particular ARV, the TGA would add it to this publicly available list and then take action to ensure ongoing access for people living with HIV taking that medication. NB: There are no ARVs currently on this TGA list.
  4. It is important to keep taking HIV treatments as prescribed. People with HIV should not skip doses or share medication with friends who are worried about their own supply.
  5. Prescriptions for ARVs are currently limited to two months’ supply at a time and this is standard for everyone. To minimise trips to the pharmacy, arrangements are in place so people living with HIV can have their medications posted to them. For more information about this issue please talk with your pharmacist.

NAPWHA has issued this communication with Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) on 3 April 2020.