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Howard Brown says state should prioritize HIV for COVID vaccinations

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Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is calling for Illinois to include people with HIV as a priority group for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Chicago-based LGBTQ health system said that two recent studies are at increased risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes from COVID-19. One study from New York published on the JAMA Network, people with HIV were 2.61 times more likely to experience hospitalization due to COVID-19 compared to people not diagnosed with HIV. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have also released guidance saying those with HIV should receive the two-shot vaccines regardless of CD4 or viral load. The vaccines were tested with HIV-positive people and they responded well.

The clinic also noted the barriers that people with HIV and other marginalized communities face in accessing healthcare.

“Historic and structural racism creates barriers to accessing critical healthcare and social services, resulting in stark racial disparities in health outcomes for both HIV and COVID-19,” HBHC said in a blog post. “Black and Latinx people are significantly overrepresented among new HIV diagnoses in this country, and they also experience lower rates of viral suppression. According to the latest figures from the CDC, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people have approximately 3-4 times higher rates of hospitalization and 2-3 times higher rates of death from COVID-19 compared to white, non-Hispanic people.”

The clinic continued, saying more must be done to ensure that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are explicitly and meaningfully prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and including people with HIV in Phase 1B Plus would bolster the state’s existing efforts to prioritize communities of color.

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