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Relation between Hepatitis B and HIV

Sep 2, 1997

Can a HIV + person be immunised against Hepatits B ? Will HIV infection causes the Hepatits B antibodies in the body to be weakened ?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to be able to fight off various infections. The more damaged the immune system is (from HIV or other causes), the less effective a vaccine may be. If a person has HIV and still has a fully functioning immune system, that vaccine should still work well. If a persons immune system has been damaged by HIV (or another disease of the immune system), that same vaccine may not work as well, but may still offer some protection. Therefore if a person has HIV, immunizations such as the Hepatitis B vaccine may still be helpful. But again, the more damaged the immune system is, the less effective a vaccine may be.

Regarding vaccines for persons with a damaged immune system (due to HIV or other causes), it is important that the person only receive "killed" or "dead" vaccines. If they were to receive a "live" vaccine (also called a "weakened" or "attenuated" vaccine), these live vaccines may actually cause the illness in a person with a damaged immune system. Vaccines such as the Hepatitis B vaccine (which is NOT a live vaccine) are harmless in persons with HIV. However, if a person were to receive a live vaccine, this may prove more harm than good. Before anyone with HIV (or another disease of the immune system) gets a vaccination, they should always discuss the vaccination with their physician first. The physician must then determine if that vaccine would be safe to give, and how effective it may be. Persons with HIV who receive a vaccination may see a transient (temporary) increase in their viral load. The viral load should then quickly go back down to previous levels. The benefits of a vaccine may outweigh the risk in persons with HIV. However, persons with HIV should always discuss immunizations with their physician first, before being vaccinated..

For more information about Hepatitis B vaccinations, see the posting, "Booster immunization using different hepatitus B recombinent vaccine."

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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