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These are difficult times for all of us. UNAIDS is urging people to act with kindness, not stigma and discrimination—people affected by COVID-19 are part of the solution and must be supported.
Governments must respect the human rights and dignity of people affected by COVID-19. The experiences learned from the HIV epidemic can be applied to the fight against COVID-19. As in the AIDS response, governments should work with communities to find local solutions. Key populations must not bear the brunt of increased stigma and discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We know that COVID-19 is a serious disease that is set to hit the countries with the highest burden of HIV very soon. Everyone, including people living with HIV, should take the recommended precautions to reduce exposure to COVID-19:
- Regular and thorough hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Make sure that you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene—cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
UNAIDS recognizes, however, that in many countries, owing to weaker health-care systems, informal settlements, overcrowded cities and public transportation and a lack of clean water and sanitation, the current approaches to self-protection, social distancing and containment may not be viable.