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Vaccines Health Center

Vaccines You Need if You Have HIV or AIDS

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If you have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), you should take special precautions against other infections, such as the flu. That's because you have a disease that makes it difficult for your immune system to fight them. Vaccines (i mmunizations) can help your body defend itself against infections. However, if you have HIV/AIDS immunizations may effect you differently than people who don't have HIV/AIDS.

Not all vaccines are safe for people with HIV/AIDS. Vaccines made from live viruses should be avoided because they may cause a mild case of the disease. Live vaccines are a weaker form of the germ that causes a particular disease. People with HIV/AIDS should receive vaccines made from inactivated diseases. Inactivated vaccines don't contain a living germ. 

Vaccine Side Effects and HIV/AIDS

Anyone, regardless of their HIV status, is at risk of side effects associated with vaccines, including:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the place where you receive the shot
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

However, if you have HIV/AIDS, vaccines carry additional risks including:

  • Vaccines may increase your viral load
  • Vaccines may not work as well if your CD4 count is very low. CD4 cells are a type of immune cell. It may help to take strong antiretroviral medications before having a vaccine if your CD4 count is low. 
  • Vaccines made from a live virus may cause you to get the disease the vaccine is supposed to prevent. In general, you should avoid live vaccines, such as chickenpox and smallpox vaccines, and the flu vaccine in the form of a nose spray. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who has had a live vaccine in the past two or three weeks. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the only live vaccine that is sometimes recommended for people with HIV/AIDS. Do not have it, however, if your CD4 count is less than 200, you have a history of AIDS-defining illness, or you've had symptoms of HIV.

What Kinds of Vaccines Do People With HIV Need?

Here are general guidelines about vaccines for people with HIV. These will help you know which to take and how often.

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