By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
As daylight hours get shorter and temperatures are falling, we’re not only approaching winter but also flu season. While we can all find ways to enjoy the change of seasons, no one enjoys the flu — a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses spread between people. Seasonal flu is a special concern if you are a person living with HIV (PLWH) since HIV can make your body too weak to fight off the flu. HIV also increases your risk for serious flu-related complications. Experts agree that getting the flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu.
CDC has designated this week as National Influenza Vaccination Awareness Week, so we encourage you to learn more about the seasonal flu and take steps to protect yourself. Here are some resources to help you:
- Read my 2011 blog post about PLWH and the flu, Staying Healthy During Flu Season: Advice for People Living with HIV/AIDS
- Read more about seasonal flu at flu.gov and take a look at its special page “HIV/AIDS and the Flu” which discusses how HIV/AIDS increases your risk of prolonged illness and serious flu complications. CDC also offers a page on “HIV/AIDS and the Flu: Questions and Answers.”
- Most importantly, to reduce your risk of catching the flu this year, get a flu vaccine. Use flu.gov’s Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine location near you.
Remember, it is not too late to get your yearly flu vaccine to protect against the flu viruses experts predict will spread this season. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination can provide protection against the flu.