People with HIV will now be able to receive a coronavirus vaccine without having to disclose their status to their GP.
The new guidance has been introduced to encourage those with HIV, who are eligible for the vaccine, to receive the jab.
Instead of disclosing their status with their local GP, patients will now be able to arrange to receive the vaccine at a HIV clinic, according to Public Health England.
It is estimated that as many as one in five people with HIV do not disclose their status to their GP, due to worries about ongoing stigma. However, it means that doctors surgeries will not be able to contact these individuals to offer them the jab as they will not know they are eligible.
Everyone living with HIV, at all stages of infection, will be offered the job in the next wave of vaccinations due to the associated immunosuppression risk.
Dr Michael Brady, NHS England national advisor for LGBT health and consultant in HIV and sexual health, said: “I encourage everyone living with HIV to register with a GP and make them aware of their HIV diagnosis so they get the best possible health care and access to the life-saving Covid vaccine.
“For those not comfortable doing this, local HIV clinics will now be able to arrange a vaccine through an alternative route, such as a local hospital hub.”
HIV charity the Terence Higgins Trust welcomed the “great news” as the “right decision” by the NHS.
Ian Green, chief executive at the trust, said: “We are working towards a society where everyone living with HIV feels comfortable sharing their status with their doctor and other health professionals, but we’re not there yet and we welcome this fast, pragmatic action.
“Some may be surprised to hear that a significant number of people living with HIV feel unable to talk to their GP about their HIV status, but this underlines how much stigma still surrounds the virus even in 2021.
“We also know from talking to people living with HIV that healthcare is one of the areas in which HIV-related stigma, discrimination and unnecessary additional precautions are still happening, which we are working with the NHS to tackle.”