COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can spread from person to person through droplets from coughing or sneezing.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The droplets can also persist on surfaces for hours.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While most people have mild symptoms, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Some individuals may acquire this infection and not get sick, others may have mild symptoms, but a subset of people develop life-threatening respiratory disease.
Who Is At Risk?
The virus is highly contagious and threatens everybody in terms of its infectiousness. That said, there are some groups that are particularly vulnerable to developing serious complications:
Older adults (over 65) and people who have chronic medical conditions like HIV, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease may have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19.
In the United States, nearly half of people with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older. People with HIV also have higher rates of chronic heart and lung disease. Like other respiratory infections among people with HIV, the risk of getting very sick is greatest in people with a low CD4 cell count and people not on HIV treatment.
People who are taking medicine to treat or prevent HIV should stick to their treatment plan, continue taking their medicine consistently, and follow the advice of their health care provider.
Encouraging people with HIV to stay on treatment and take preventative actions will play an essential role in protecting the health and well-being of those who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
People with HIV who have COVID-19 have an excellent prognosis, and they should be clinically managed the same as persons in the general population with COVID-19, including when making medical care triage determinations.
What Can You Do To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming Infected?
Clean your hands often:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Take steps to protect others:
Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
Cover coughs and sneezes:
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
Throw used tissues in the trash.
Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a facemask if you are sick or sneezing or coughing:
If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
If you don’t have a facemask, making them are easy. Here’s how you can make your own DIY facemask
Clean and disinfect:
Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
What Can You Do To Help Yourself and Others Cope
Reject Sigma! Do not scapegoat or blame groups of people
Despite the claims of some irresponsible leaders, the coronavirus is not the fault of any one country or racial/ethnic group. Viruses are part of our world and our shared human history.
As LGBTQIA+ people and/or people living with HIV, we know how HIV stigma and anti-LGBTQIA+ stigma can enable the spread of HIV. It’s important not to stigmatize the coronavirus.
No single racial or ethnic group of people is at greater risk of contracting or spreading the virus. The virus knows no borders and does not discriminate. Racism and xenophobia, including anti- Chinese and anti-Asian racism, are not helpful responses.
Stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others.
It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.
Manage Your Anxiety and Stress
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
Finally, it’s important to practice self-care and remain hopeful. We are in for a long haul, but we will get through this together if we take the appropriate precautions and make sacrifices now for the greater societal good. Here are some ideas to help get you and the people you love through this:
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Check in on isolated individuals, especially people who are elderly or people living with a disability or chronic disease.