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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Topic Overview

A person who has HIV has difficulty fighting off other infections. You can help protect the person from infections.

  • Avoid close contact with people who have contagious illnesses until their symptoms have disappeared. This includes illnesses such as colds, the flu, or stomach flu.
  • If you have a cold or flu, wear a surgical-type mask and wash your hands before approaching or touching the person with HIV.
  • Get an annual flu vaccine to reduce the chance of getting the flu and infecting others.
  • If you have skin infections such as boils, cold sores or fever blisters (herpes simplex), or shingles (herpes zoster), avoid close contact with the person who has HIV.
  • Ask your doctor whether you should have any boosters or shots for measles, mumps, or rubella, because these shots may not have been available when you were a child.
  • Get the special form of polio shot known as "Salk" or "inactivated virus" vaccine if you need a polio shot. Do not use the oral "Sabin" form of the vaccine.
  • Contact the doctor of the person who has HIV within 24 hours if the person has not had:
    • A measles vaccine and he or she is exposed to measles. A medicine is available that, if given promptly, may help prevent measles.
    • Chickenpox and he or she is exposed to chickenpox or shingles. Chickenpox can make a person with HIV very sick. For more information, see the topic Chickenpox (Varicella) or Shingles.
  • Learn how to handle food properly. This can help prevent a food-borne infection. For more information, see the topic Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
  • Avoid having a person who has HIV clean pet litter or pet living areas, such as cages and tanks.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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