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Key Points about Vaccinations for HIV-Positive Individuals

From the US Department of Health and Human Services website – updated 02/24/17

Vaccines protect people from diseases such as chicken pox, flu, and polio. Vaccines are given by needle injection (a shot), by mouth, or sprayed into the nose. The process of getting a vaccine is called vaccination or immunization.

There are no vaccines to prevent or cure HIV, but people with HIV can benefit from vaccines against other diseases. The following vaccines are recommended for all people with HIV: hepatitis B; influenza (flu); human papillomavirus (HPV) (for those up to age 26); pneumococcal (pneumonia); and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (a single vaccine that protects against the three diseases). Every 10 years, a repeat vaccine against tetanus and diphtheria is also recommended. Other vaccines may be recommended for some people with HIV.

In general, people with HIV should not get live, attenuated vaccines unless the benefit outweighs the risk.

In general, vaccines work best when an HIV-infected person’s CD4 count is above 200 copies/mm3.

By stimulating the immune system, vaccines may also cause a person’s HIV viral load to increase temporarily.

Because HIV medicines strengthen the immune system and reduce HIV viral load, people with HIV may want to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) before getting vaccinated whenever possible. In some situations, however, immunizations should be given even if ART has not been started. For example, it’s important for people with HIV to get vaccinated against the flu at the time of year when the risk of flu is greatest.