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Resources for People with HIV and Hepatitis in Disaster Areas


During and after disasters such as Hurricane Matthew, people with medical conditions including HIV and viral hepatitis will be among those displaced and requiring emergency care. Government agencies offer resources for people with these and other chronic conditions, healthcare providers, and others who provide emergency and disaster-related services.

General Resources

In addition to the need for rescue and emergency care in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, other concerns come into play when people are displaced for longer periods. For example, people forced to evacuate may not have enough medication and may not be able to reach their usual healthcare providers or clinics.

The effects of disasters on people living with HIV/AIDS can be particularly severe, Miguel Gomez of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote in a 2012 blog post in the wake of Hurricane Isaac:

  • Natural disasters may affect things like air and water quality -- which can make a person living with HIV/AIDS susceptible to infections.
  • People living with HIV may lose or run out of medications during a disaster, resulting in possible interruption in treatment.
  • Access to care can be hampered due either to the destruction of healthcare facilities or people's relocation to other communities.
  • Disasters can disrupt mail service, which can interfere with receiving benefits such as Social Security, or mail order prescriptions.

The website provides a section on emergency preparedness for people with HIV/AIDS including local and federal emergency resources -- and how to prepare now for the next emergency.

Another concern is that providers caring for people in shelters and other emergency facilities may not be familiar with HIV or hepatitis treatment, including how to manage complex combination therapy, drug interactions, side effects, and opportunistic infection prophylaxis.

One important consideration is how to safely stop antiretroviral drugs, if necessary, in order to prevent resistance. Because individual HIV drugs are not effective alone, in some cases it may be better to temporarily stop an entire regimen if some components are unavailable, but it is important to take into account that some drugs remain in the body longer than others.



M Gomez. Natural Disasters and People Living with HIV and AIDS. September 5, 2012.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Guidance for Non-HIV-Specialized Providers Caring for HIV-Infected Residents Displaced from Disaster Areas. August 26, 2011.