Emergencies and HIV/AIDS
Emergencies can take many forms. They include natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, wildfires, etc.), which can directly or indirectly cause severe threats to public health and/or wellbeing; accidental emergencies, such as an explosion at a chemical plant or a train derailment; and terrorist hazards. They also can include epidemics, such as pandemic flu.
All Americans should have a plan for what to do during an emergency, and be prepared. But people living with HIV/AIDS have special considerations to think about. For example, if you are living with HIV/AIDS, a natural disaster or other emergency may make it harder for you to take your HIV medications or have access to your health care providers or your pharmacy. To avoid interruptions in HIV treatment or access to medications, you should always have a 10–14 day supply of all your medications on hand.
In addition, in the event of an outbreak of a new disease or epidemic (like influenza), you should consult your health care provider to determine whether you need to take specific precautions because you are living with HIV/AIDS.
Natural Disasters and HIV/AIDS
Natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and wildfires may affect things like air and water quality—which can be even harder on people living with HIV/AIDS because of their weakened immune systems. If you have HIV disease, these environmental hazards can increase your risk for opportunistic infections.
Food and clean water sources could be disrupted during a natural disaster, leading to the possibility of water-borne infections and illness. If sanitation and hygiene are questionable, it’s important to follow proper food and water safety guidelines. For more information, see CDC’s Safe Food and Water.
Find Local Resources Near You
There are many resources in and around your community to help you plan and prepare for natural disasters and other 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 from the States and the District of Columbia.
In addition, USA.gov's list of local governments provides links to local government information, nationwide. Through these links, you can locate government offices and services near you to assist you in your emergency planning efforts.
Emergency Resources for People Living with HIV/AIDS
The Federal Government offers several resources and programs that may be particularly useful to people living with HIV/AIDS during a natural disaster or other emergency. The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program provides an efficient way for pharmacies to process claims for prescription medications and limited durable medical equipment for individuals who are from disaster areas and who do not have health insurance. Eligibility information for disaster-affected individuals can be found here.
DisasterAssistance.gov offers access to disaster help and information, including details on over 60 forms of assistance from 17 Federal agencies, including information about the continuation of monthly benefits from Social Security. Individuals can take an anonymous online questionnaire to obtain information about and apply for forms of disaster assistance for which they may be eligible.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Safe Drug Use after a Natural Disaster offers information on the use of drugs that have been potentially affected by fire, flooding, or unsafe water and the use of temperature-sensitive drug products when refrigeration is temporarily unavailable.
Fact Sheets & Print Materials
- Ready.gov – Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities, Others with Access and Functional Needs, and the Whole Community This brochure will help people with disabilities and other health needs prepare a plan to protect themselves in the event of an emergency.
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get my life back together after a natural disaster?
The aftermath of a natural disaster or other emergency is traumatic for all survivors. It can be especially troubling for people with a condition that could be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately Federal, State, and local governments have social and medical response systems in place that are designed to assist all survivors directly affected by disasters. These responders come directly to the location of the disaster to provide social and medical services. You can get information on more than 60 kinds of disaster assistance and apply for help online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
- Ready.gov – Individuals with Access and Other Functional Needs
The goal of the Ready Campaign is to increase the level of basic emergency preparedness across the nation by getting the public involved. This link focuses on preparations for those with access and other functional needs.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management
- FDA – Natural Disaster Response
- Red Cross - Local Offices
Last revised: 02/14/2012