COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Service Update- 17.03.20

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In light of recent Government and BHIVA (British HIV Association) guidelines we are now taking steps to reduce the potential risk to our clients and staff. We will be regularly updating our response as new guidance is released so please keep checking the website, your email/post and our social media channels.

As from today (Tues March 17th) we will be introducing the following:

  • The Brigstowe office will now be CLOSED
  • We will continue to operate standard office hours of 9am-5pm and all staff will be working from home
  • All non-urgent face to face and group meeting will now be cancelled until further notice. Our support staff will be contactable via phone and email and meetings, where possible, will be done via skype/WhatsApp video call/FaceTime/telephone
  • If you do consider your meeting to be urgent please call and speak to your Support Worker who will advise based on information received

Guidance for People Living with HIV

Government guidance indicates that “members of the public with serious health conditions will soon be asked to self-isolate for 12 weeks.” This is defined in the Guidance as “anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds” which includes anyone living with HIV.

Whilst there is no evidence so far to determine whether people with HIV are at greater risk of COVID-19 acquisition or severe disease, the new advice reflects the lack of evidence by classifying all people with HIV as vulnerable.

The Guidance from Public Health England (PHE) on Social Distancing for Vulnerable Groups, including people with HIV is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults. The general advice in this does not go as far as to recommend self-isolation for all at risk, nor does it specify a duration of time for the self-isolation.

More detail is expected soon and this may include specific advice for people living with HIV based on viral load and CD4 count, as people on HIV treatment with a good CD4 and undetectable viral load are not usually considered to have a “weakened immune system” as specified in the PHE guidance. Brigstowe will distribute any further information/new developments as they are given by BHIVA. Right now the recommendation is to follow PHE’s “social distancing” advice which does not necessarily mean “self-isolation.”

If you would like further advice, would like to speak to someone regarding a concern or would like this information in a different language, please call us on: 0117 955 5038.

Additional Information

We want to ensure everyone that support is still available to all of our clients and the community as a whole.

Clinic (Brecon) Update

At this moment Clinic at Southmead Hospital are operating Business as Usual this week and are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of patients, staff & visitors. The Clinic secretaries are going to be calling patients they have numbers for to inform those with appointments from next week onwards to advise these appointments will be done over the phone. These calls will be made during clinic opening times. For patients who are pregnant, newly diagnosed, those with a low CD4 and any other patient who the Clinic Staff feel they need to see due to blood work being needed then they will continue to see these patients at Southmead.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should follow the advice and NOT attend clinic. If you do attend and are able to self-isolate you will be sent home and not seen. If you are unwell with symptoms then then you may be seen in clinic or triaged through other services. We will forward any further updates when provided.

Community

ACORN- a community based union is organising local volunteers to support people in the community who need shopping, prescription collection, post and anything else they may need if they are stuck at home. If you require assistance or would like to volunteer then please visit: www.acorntheunion.org.uk/corona

Employment

For all the advice needed in regards to your employment and how to manage your HIV in conjunction with Guidance surrounding COVID-19, the fab people over at NAT (National AIDS Trust) have this very useful guide- https://loopedin.nat.org.uk/topic/hiv-and-coronavirus-(covid-19)/1

Useful Numbers

Brigstowe are not a crisis service. However, we understand this can be a difficult and challenging time for you. If you have an emergency or need someone to talk to, there is help available. Here are some useful numbers in case you need support, some of which are open outside office hours:

Samaritans 24hr helpline (to talk about anything difficult) – 116 123

Social Services Helplines (Connecting Care) – 0800 073 0907 or 0117 900 2655

Bristol Mental Health Crisis Line – 0300 555 0334

Bristol City Council Homelessness and Housing Advice: 0117 352 6800

Southmead Hospital HIV Clinic – telephone the HIV Specialist Nurses on 0117 4146400

THT Direct (for HIV specific advice and guidance) – 0808 802 1221

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