Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony sounded the alarm on the high number of HIV-positive persons in Guyana who have not made themselves available to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony said there are too many HIV-positive persons who have been shying away from getting vaccinated and that decision is putting their lives at risk if they become infected with the virus since their immune system is already compromised.
“It is recommended that persons with HIV take the COVID-19 vaccine because it is going to protect. The benefit of getting vaccinated, far outweighs the risk of being unvaccinated and in some cases those persons who would have had their immune system compromise, in some of those patients it is also recommended that they get a third dose of the vaccine— or a booster shot,” the Health Minister said.
The Minister said any of the vaccines that are currently being administered in Guyana could be administered to HIV+ patients, adding that the vaccines will not interfere with or influence HIV treatment.
“The mechanism of actions is totally different. Vaccines help to stimulate the immune system so that your body can produce antibodies that can fight off COVID-19 virus. Antiretroviral they work differently, they interrupt the lifecycle of the HIV and therefore their actions are totally different,” the Minister explained.
The Minister observed that there appears to be a lot of vaccine hesitancy among the HIV population.
“They probably have various myths about why they shouldn’t be vaccinated but all the evidence is pointing that they need to be vaccinated,” the Minister said.
Dr. Anthony said persons living with HIV should always follow the COVID-19 guidelines to avoid contracting the virus. But if they do he said, once they are vaccinated, they stand a greater chance of not becoming gravely ill.