Emergency Preparedness: What Do People with HIV Need to Know?
All Americans should have a plan for what to do during a hurricane, wildfire, or other emergency. But for people with HIV, it’s especially important to be prepared.
Plan ahead. To stay healthy, people with HIV must take their HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed. A natural disaster or other emergency may make it harder for you to do this. To avoid interruptions in your HIV treatment, store a 7- to 10-day supply in a waterproof container to take with you if you have to evacuate. Talk to your provider or your pharmacist to find out if a 30- or 90-day refill of your HIV medicine is recommended or available in an emergency, or if you can receive your medicine by mail.
Make a list. Keep a list of your HIV medications and any others you take, their dosage amounts, and frequency, and a summary of your HIV treatment history in case you have to see another provider temporarily. Make sure you have a copy of your insurance card and the phone numbers for your providers and pharmacies.
Communicate with your provider. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you should do if you run out of medication due to an emergency. In addition, in the event of an outbreak of a disease (like the flu), ask your provider whether you need to take specific precautions because you have HIV.
Follow safety guidelines. Be aware that some types of disasters may affect air and water quality—which can be even harder on people with HIV and others with weakened immune systems. If you have HIV, disruptions in the availability of food and clean water can increase your risk for opportunistic infections. If proper sanitation and hygiene are an issue, it’s important to follow proper food and water safety guidelines. See CDC’s information on keeping food and water safe after a disaster or emergency. Also follow local guidance about exercise and going outside on days with poor air quality. See CDC’s information on protecting yourself during wildfire season.
Wash your hands. Regular handwashing with soap and clean water is the best way to remove germs that can make you and others sick. If you don’t have soap and clean water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Stay up to date on your vaccinations. Make sure your immunizations for infections and illnesses such as tetanus and seasonal flu are up to date. Know the date of your last tetanus shot in case of injury in an emergency.
Emergency Preparedness, Response, and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has made preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies more complicated, and this makes being informed and having a personal emergency plan even more important.
People, especially those who are or may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and live in areas prone to hurricanes and wildfires, should prepare now for the effects these and other hazards can have on their health. Visit CDC’s Prepare Your Health for tips and information.
Resources to Help You Plan Ahead
There are many resources to help you prepare for emergencies and disasters:
- CDC’s Emergency Preparedness and Response site has information on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
- Ready.gov offers tips and tools to help you plan ahead for many different kinds of disasters and emergencies.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s State Homeland Security and Emergency Services page provides links to homeland security and public safety websites in your state.
- CDC’s Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19 provides information on how the COVID-19 pandemic can affect disaster preparedness and recovery and what you can do to keep safe.
- SAMHSA's Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health During an Infectious Disease Outbreak provides information about social distancing, quarantine, and isolation during COVID-19 and tips for caring for your behavioral health during these experiences.
- The FDA’s Safe Drug Use after a Natural Disaster offers information on the use of medications before and after natural disasters.
Help with Recovery
During and after a disaster, it is natural to experience different and strong emotions. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disaster. CDC provides resources for Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event, along with Coping with Stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also offers many resources to help Americans who are recovering from an emergency or disaster.
- Tips for Survivors: Coping with Grief After a Disaster or Traumatic Event offers information about grief, the grieving process, and resources to help with grief.
- Tips for Survivors: Coping with Anger After a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event discusses anger and offers tips for calming yourself.
- Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event: Coping with Retraumitization discusses the signs and symptoms of retraumatization and how to manage it.