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What Do I Need to Know About Immunizations?

June 2009

I Am HIV Positive. Why Do I Need Immunizations?

Terms Used in This Fact Sheet

Antibody: a protein produced by the body's immune system that recognizes and fights infectious organisms. Each antibody is specific to a particular disease.

CD4 count: CD4 cells, also called CD4+ T cells, are a type of white blood cell that fights infection. HIV destroys CD4 cells, making it harder for your body to fight infections. A CD4 count is the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood.

Immunization: the introduction of a vaccine into the body to stimulate the formation of antibodies to fight a specific disease. These antibodies will protect the person from getting that disease in the future.

Live vaccine: a vaccine containing live viruses or bacteria that have been weakened to produce an immune response without causing the severe effects of the disease.

Vaccine: a substance that stimulates the body's immune response in order to prevent or control an infection.

Viral load: the amount of HIV in a blood sample.

When you have HIV you are at increased risk for certain infections. Some of these infections can be prevented with vaccines.

Which Immunizations Should I Have?

See Recommended Immunizations for HIV Positive Adults Fact Sheet.

I Am Not Sure Which Immunizations I Have Had. What Should I Do?

Your doctor can help you determine which immunizations you have had. There are several blood tests that may also help determine if you have already had an immunization or the disease itself.

Are There Side Effects From Immunizations?

Side effects may or may not occur.

When Should I Get Immunized?

Do Any of the Immunizations Need to Be Given Again?

Some immunizations may need to be repeated.

Are There Any Other Immunizations I Should Have?

Are There Any Immunizations I Should Not Have?

HIV positive people should usually avoid getting immunized with live vaccines because their immune systems may have been weakened by HIV. A weakened immune system might not be strong enough to fight off the viral/bacterial infection that may result from a live vaccine. MMR and varicella immunizations are an exception to this recommendation.

For More Information

Contact your doctor or an AIDSinfo Health Information Specialist at 1-800-448-0440 or

This information is based on 1) Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule -- United States, January 9, 2009. Centers for Disease Control Web site. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2009. (2) MMWR Quick Guide Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule -- United States, January 2009. Centers for Disease Control Web site. Available at: Accessed May 12 2009. (3) MMWR General Recommendations on Immunization December 1, 2006 / Vol.55 / No. RR-15. Centers for Disease Control Web site. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2009.

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General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.
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