HIV activist Thandi Maluka (52) is fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and urges other people living with HIV to vaccinate to save their own and others' lives.
Maluka, who is HIV-positive, did not have any complications from the COVID-19 vaccine.
She encourages everyone living with HIV to get vaccinated so that HIV programmes around the country can go back to normal and health practitioners can fully interact with people.
Vaccinating is not about an individual, it is about ensuring that those around you are protected so that the country can eventually be free from the virus, she says.
“We have to take the lead in the vaccination programme to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce morbidity and mortality. As people living with HIV, we need to play our part in the reduction of the high rate of death.”
Maluka says it is worrying to hear the myths about how the vaccine is not good for people living with HIV, as this could cost lives. People living with HIV must not forget that so many myths came about when South Africa started rolling-out HIV treatment. Many of those who believed the myths refused to take their treatment and lost their life unnecessarily, she says.
“The COVID-19 vaccine does not affect antiretroviral therapy (ARV). ARV helps your immune system to be strong and that prevents opportunistic infections from affecting your body. Let us stay away from myths. We overcame HIV treatment myths, and we need to do the same with those about the COVID-19 vaccine,” she says.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, people living with HIV are at great risk of death from COVID-19. Taking the vaccine reduces their chances of death.
Possible side effects
Just like anyone else who is vaccinated, people living with HIV could have some side effects. This does not mean there is something wrong with the vaccine, says Maluka.
“Not all of us experience side effects. It depends on how each person’s body reacts to the vaccine, whether they are living with HIV or not. Some people have minor side effects and some don’t have any. All of this has nothing to do with one’s HIV status,” she adds.
This year’s World Aids Day theme is: ‘End inequalities, AIDS, TB and COVID-19: Get tested. Get vaccinated. Adhere to treatment’.
The international day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic, which is caused by the spread of HIV, and mourning those who have died from the diseases.
For the latest COVID-19 vaccination sites, visit: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/active-vaccination-sites/