Vaccinations for people with HIV infection

The purpose of vaccinations is to protect people from infectious diseases. Compared to HIV-negative people, people living with HIV have an increased vulnerability to vaccine-preventable diseases.

Why is vaccination needed?

Vaccination is used to prevent certain diseases, such as measles, rubella, polio, etc. After a person receives a vaccine, his immune system begins to produce antibodies, which subsequently protect the body from the disease.

In this way, the immune system learns to protect the body if the person is subsequently exposed to the disease. Most vaccines are designed to ensure that a person never gets a particular disease or only gets a mild form of it.

Despite many misconceptions about vaccines, they are safe and effective. Some people may experience side effects after vaccination, but these are minor (such as soreness at the injection site or fever) and go away within a few days. Severe reactions to vaccines are rare.  

Since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is aimed at destroying and weakening the immune system, people with HIV infection are recommended to be regularly vaccinated against a number of diseases, which we will discuss below.

Vaccines recommended for people living with HIV

The following vaccines are recommended for people with HIV infection:

  • hepatitis B;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) (for women under 40 years of age, for men under 26 years of age);
  • flu;
  • meningococcal (recommended for people under 25 years of age);
  • pneumococcal (pneumonia);
  • tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. 

Additional vaccines may be recommended for an HIV-infected person depending on their age, previous vaccinations, disease-specific risk factors, or other factors associated with HIV infection.

Vaccines for travel

If you are HIV positive and are planning a trip, you may need vaccinations against a number of diseases:

  • cholera;
  • encephalitis;
  • tetanus;
  • diphtheria;
  • typhus;
  • yellow fever;
  • polio.

If you have HIV, talk to your healthcare provider about any vaccines you need before you travel.

Vaccines not recommended for people living with HIV

Vaccines are divided into 2 main types: live and inactivated . Live vaccines contain, although weakened, a living type of pathogenic microorganism, while inactivated vaccines contain a dead one.

A vaccine against the same disease can be either live or inactivated. For safety reasons, HIV-positive people need to receive inactivated vaccines to avoid even the minimal risk of getting sick.

Although vaccines generally provide protection against infectious diseases, some are too risky for people living with HIV. These include:

  • live influenza vaccine;
  • live smallpox vaccine;
  • BCG (for tuberculosis);
  • live vaccine against typhoid fever.

In summary, there are no vaccines to prevent or treat HIV infection, but people living with HIV benefit greatly from vaccines against other diseases. 

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