People Living with HIV Can Gain Effective Immunity with Seasonal Flu Vaccine (dataset)
Sun, April 11, 2021

People Living with HIV Can Gain Effective Immunity with Seasonal Flu Vaccine (dataset)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the cells that are supposed to help the body fight infection. / Photo by Franco Volpato via 123rf


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the cells that are supposed to help the body fight infection. This makes people living with HIV more vulnerable to other diseases and infections. New findings released by the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London revealed that a seasonal influenza vaccine can provide effective immunity for people being treated with HIV.


Flu shots for people with HIV

While HIV patients are already advised to get a flu shot annually to avoid serious flu-related complications, it remains unclear how well the flu shot protects these patients, particularly those undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). Antiretroviral therapy is the daily use of a combination of HIV medicines to treat the infection. The Imperial College of London research recently found that the influenza vaccine triggered an effective immune response among patients diagnosed with HIV and who are taking ART. These are also the patients whose HIV has been “fully suppressed.”


Current recommendation

Research head Dr. Katrina Pollock said via medical research platform Medical Xpress that people who are considered at risk of serious illness because of the flu, such as those diagnosed with HIV, are recommended by doctors to receive a vaccine that contains four influenza strains. But there were several studies, which indicated that vaccine-induced immunity may be impaired for someone with HIV. There is also a lack of data to prove that modern ART can “fully restore” such vaccine-induced immunity.

The Imperial College London’s study showed the same flu shot responses among people being treated with HIV and healthcare workers. This only means that it is indeed possible to restore the vaccine-induced immunity of the patient. 


Antiretroviral therapy is the daily use of a combination of HIV medicines to treat the infection.  / Photo by Manjurul Haque via 123rf


A quadrivalent vaccine in the UK

For people living with HIV in the UK, the British HIV Association has recommended that they are offered a vaccine that contains four types of flu virus or what they refer to as the quadrivalent vaccine comprising two B-strains and two A-strains. There was a previous study known as FluAge, wherein it compared the responses of patients to the four-strain vaccine among healthcare workers and men with HIV undergoing ART from 2017 to 2018 winter. Then, the researchers measured the flu vaccine responses of patients through their mouths instead of blood testing. They found that the response was the same in individuals with fully suppressed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

The group also used a method created at Public Health England in collaboration with advanced clinical scientist Dr. Katja Hoschler, wherein they collected gum-line samples from the study participants. 

Aside from Pollock, other members of the Imperial College London study were Graham P. Taylor, Sarah Fidler, Graham S. Cooke, Megan E. Cole, Zainab Saeed, Yanping Guo, Katja Höschler, A. Torm Shaw, and Alan Winston. “PLWH (people living with HIV) are therefore recommended to receive a yearly influenza vaccine, but efficacy is suboptimal,” the team wrote. All statistical analysis they conducted were done using GraphPad Prism software, a scientific 2D graphing and statistics software. 



HIV statistics

UNAids, a global effort to end AIDS, said that there are now 3.2 million people living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific that are also receiving antiretroviral therapy. As to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, the effort is now at 56 percent coverage but is still below the global average of 82 percent. In 2018, the prevalence of adult HIV in Indonesia was at 0.3 percent of the population, Papua New Guinea at 0.8 percent, Afghanistan <0 percent, Pakistan <0.1 percent, Philippines <0.1 percent, Japan <0 percent, Thailand 0.8 percent, Myanmar 0.6, and Nepal <0.1 percent. 

All 38 countries in Asia and the Pacific still have laws that impede HIV response although some are already in progress. Thirty-seven of them already criminalize some aspects of sex work, 15 have a death penalty for drug-related offenses, 10 impose restrictions on the residence, stay, and entry of people living with HIV based on their HIV status, 16 criminalize same-sex relations, and 11 have compulsory detention centers for those who use drugs.



Percentage of people living with HIV who know their status

For the percentage of people in the world living with HIV who know their status, some countries in the list are Indonesia (51 percent), Philippines (76 percent), Afghanistan (38 percent), Cambodia (82 percent), Malaysia (86 percent), Thailand (94 percent), Papua New Guinea (87 percent), Mongolia (38 percent), Pakistan (14 percent), Bhutan (47 percent), Bangladesh (37 percent), and Laos (85 percent).

The World Health Organization said that globally, an estimated 79 percent of people living with HIV knew their status. Awareness of their condition led to 23.3 million individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy and 53 percent were able to achieve suppression of HIV with no risk of infecting others. A great majority (82 percent) of breastfeeding and pregnant women with HIV likewise received ART to ensure the prevention of HIV transmission to their newborns.

The organization pointed out that HIV remains a global public health issue as it has already claimed more than 32 million lives. Yet, it has become a manageable chronic health condition, allowing PLWH to lead healthy and long lives.