Preparing for Disasters and Emergencies When Living With HIV

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Living well with HIV is a life-long commitment -- so it's important to be ready to deal with whatever difficulties come up. When it comes to natural disasters or other emergencies, people with HIV have several more things to prepare for than people who don't have HIV. It's important not just to think about the possibility of an emergency -- it's best to plan for it.

Credit: AIDS.gov.


Will I Really Face an Emergency?

Only about 10 percent of households in the United States are prepared for an emergency. Yet, climate change and increasing weather extremes are creating more emergencies than ever. The United States had an average of 126 natural disasters each year in the previous decade -- more than 1,257 in all -- according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So, it's wise to prepare for emergencies in advance.

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Prepare a Kit and Keep an Evacuation Checklist

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of what should be in your emergency preparedness kit. In addition to gathering these items, make a checklist in priority order of everything you'd need to take if you had to evacuate your home. Make sure that you keep this list on a piece of paper that you often see; don't rely on a computer working in an emergency or on being able to locate your list in an off-the-path location.

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Disasters and emergencies can make it challenging to access HIV medications, pharmacies or health care providers. AIDS.gov recommends having a 10-14 day supply of all your medications at all times to prevent treatment interruptions]]. It's also a good idea to have a summary of your medical and HIV treatment history in case you have to see another provider temporarily.

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Water Is a Key Essential

Make sure that you have enough water stored. How much is that? The CDC has excellent guidance here. If you have a car, you should keep water there as well because you never know where you will be when disaster strikes. Also, during or after a natural disaster, the risk of water-borne infections or food poisoning could arise, which would be an extra concern if you have a low CD4 count or other forms of immune suppression.

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If You Drive, Keep Your Tank at Least Half Full

When disaster hits your area, nearby gas stations might be closed because of a lack of power, unexpected demand or disruption of the supply chain. Try to never let the level of gasoline in your car's tank go below half full.

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Rely on Community

"[P]ersonal ties among members of a community ... determine survival during a disaster," research shows. Organizing with neighbors, friends and family for whatever might happen could be the most important plan you make.

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Lifesaving Preparations

Planning for trouble can naturally make us anxious, but these tips might just save your life. Check out AIDS.gov for more resources and links.

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