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HIV/AIDS and the Flu

If you or a loved one has HIV/AIDS, you may know how hard it is to prevent viral infections such as the flu. In addition, flu complications such as pneumonia can deteriorate the body's already compromised immune system. 

To stay well and avoid flu and flu complications, it's important to understand all you can about the flu and to take the recommended prevention steps.

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Why Is the Flu Serious for People With HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) kills or damages cells in the body's immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections like the flu virus. Because of cell damage, people with HIV/AIDS are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia from the flu.

Studies show an increased risk for heart- and lung-related hospitalizations in people infected with HIV during flu season as opposed to other times of the year. There's also a higher risk of flu-related deaths among people with HIV during flu season.

How Can I Prevent the Flu if I Have HIV/AIDS?

While it is difficult for most people to prevent the flu, it is possible to reduce the risk of serious flu complications. That's why the CDC recommends that high-risk groups -- those with chronic conditions such as patients with HIV/AIDS -- should receive the influenza vaccine with a flu shot. Being vaccinated against influenza is especially important when the person with HIV/AIDS is around others, such as at home, in the workplace, or in social settings, who might have the flu.

The CDC recommends getting the flu shot instead of the live attenuated flu vaccine or FluMist. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing a killed virus) that's given with a needle. FluMist contains a weakened form of the live flu virus and is only approved for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49. Both the flu shot and FluMist cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies help give added protection against the flu infection. 

When Should I Get a Flu Shot?

Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the recommended time to be vaccinated, but you can still get vaccinated in December and later.

The flu shot becomes effective about two weeks after your vaccination, which is why experts recommend getting the shot early in the fall. Without the flu shot, you are at an increased risk of catching flu and having flu complications.

Should I Get a Flu Shot Each Year if I Have HIV/AIDS?

Yes. Flu viruses change each year, so the shot you get this year may not protect you from the flu strain in following years. In addition, even if you do get sick with flu, your immunity to the flu virus declines over time. Getting an annual flu shot helps boost flu protection each year.

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