Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or being over a certain age.

However, people with HIV who have a compromised immune system may be at greater risk and should take extra steps to prevent infection. This includes people with:

  • a low CD4 count (<200 copies/cell),
  • a high viral load
  • a recent opportunistic infection.

The best way to stay healthy is by taking your antiretroviral treatment.


People with HIV should follow the general advice for preventing COVID-19. This includes keeping a 1-meter distance from others, washing your hands regularly, wearing a face mask, and following any other local rules or advice.

If you have HIV, you can take some extra steps to protect your health during this time:

1. Stock-up on antiretroviral treatment. You should keep enough at home for at least 30 days (ideally for three months).
2. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
3. Know how to contact your local health care facility and any peer supporters by phone or messenger.
4. Make a plan for if you get sick and need to stay at home, including how you will get food and medicine or contact your healthcare facility.
5. Keep healthy by eating well and exercising.
6. Look after your mental health. Keep in touch with friends and family over the phone and get extra support if you feel you need it.


COVID-19 can be passed from a mother to her baby in the womb, but it is very rare.

Pregnant women should continue to follow the prevention advice and seek medical care straight away if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any risks of transmitting COVID-19 to the baby. Mothers who have COVID-19 are advised to continue breastfeeding so long as they feel strong enough to do so.

If you have COVID-19, you can reduce the risk of passing it on to your baby whilst feeding by:

1. wearing a face mask
2. washing your hands before and after feeding
3. using a tissue to cover your mouth if you need to cough or sneeze (throw the tissue away immediately after and wash your hands).

The World Health Organization recommends that people wear masks when interacting with people who are not members of your household:

  • indoors where there is poor ventilation
  • indoors where there is ventilation but you can't keep a physical distance of 1 meter from other people
  • outdoors where you can't keep a physical distance of 1 meter from other people

Depending on where you are in the world there may be other rules that require you to wear masks in certain situations. Make sure you know what the recommendations are where you live so you can follow them.

The main reason for wearing masks is to stop you from passing COVID-19 on. People can pass COVID-19 on even when they don't have any symptoms. Wearing a mask, in combination with physical distancing where possible, will help stop COVID-19 from spreading.

However if you have COVID -19 symptoms you should still stay home and self-isolate - wearing a mask is not enough.

There are two main types of masks: fabric masks (which you can make yourself) and medical masks (which are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers). The type of mask suitable for you will depend on who you are and the type of risk that you face.
As medical masks are in short supply, they should be saved for:

  • health workers
  • those caring for people with COVID-19
  • people with COVID-19 symptoms
  • more at-risk groups for times when keeping a distance is not possible.

Medical masks can protect the wearer from getting COVID-19, but should be combined with other safety measures, including frequent hand washing and physical distancing.

Fabric masks are more readily available, you can make these yourself. These masks are suitable for healthy people to wear in public places. They stop you from passing the virus on if you have COVID-19 but haven’t realised and don’t have symptoms. Fabric masks don’t stop you (the wearer) from getting COVID-19, so make sure that you keep up other measures – physical distancing and washing your hands to reduce your own risk of getting COVID-19.

Masks should be used in combination with other safety measures, including keeping at least a 1 metre distance between yourself and people you don't live with, regular hand washing and limiting your social contacts.

For a mask to be effective it needs to fit closely and not be too loose. It should cover your nose, mouth and chin and you should be able to breathe easily while wearing it.

Here’s some advice on how to use a mask effectively:

  • Before putting on a mask, make sure that your hands are clean and that the mask is not dirty or damaged (with holes for example).
  • Avoid touching the mask while you’re wearing it. If you notice that the mask has become wet or dirty, change it for a new one.
  • Clean your hands before removing your mask. Use the ear-loops to take your mask off, being careful not to touch the front of the mask. Wash your hands again after you have removed the mask.

Don’t share your mask with other people. When you are not wearing it, put it inside a re-sealable plastic bag. If possible you should wash the mask in hot water and detergent at the end of each day.

A tippy tap is a simple device that can help you rinse your hands with water. You operate the tippy tap with your foot, so you don’t have to touch any handles where germs, bacteria or viruses can live. You step on a lever, and the water pours onto your hands.

These tippy taps are easy to make and are the best way to wash your hands if you don’t have easy access to running water or taps.

There are different ways to make tippy taps. For the basics you will need:

  • a plastic water container (with a handle and cap),
  • string
  • long sticks (1 for the lever and more for if you’re making a frame)
  • A branch or frame made out of sticks to hold the tippy tap up.

For full instructions on making a tippy tap, see this guide.