Vaccinations and immunisations

An immunisation (often called a vaccination) is designed to protect the recipient against an infectious disease. Some people with HIV can be at risk of becoming more seriously ill from certain illnesses, so it is recommended that HIV-positive people routinely receive certain vaccinations.  Some vaccinations may not be suitable for people with HIV, or used only with caution, such as those using a live version of the virus (for example, yellow fever), but this may depend on your CD4 cell count.

It's recommended that you receive the vaccinations against hepatitis A virus and hepatitis B virus unless you already have a natural immunity. Natural immunity is acquired after you’ve recovered from an earlier infection from one of these viruses.

Annual flu jabs and vaccination against pneumococcal disease are also recommended, particularly if you have a low CD4 cell count, or have any other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or any lung conditions.

A vaccine is now available that provides a high level of protection against infection with the types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that are most associated with cervical and anal cancer. Vaccination programmes in the UK are currently targeted at school-age girls. There are no plans to routinely offer the vaccine to adults with HIV. However, there is growing evidence that immunisation is safe and would be effective in a substantial number of people.

In 2013, the Health Protection Agency (now part of Public Health England) recommended that gay men, and other men who have sex with men, who are planning to travel to New York and haven’t been already been vaccinated against meningitis C should discuss risk factors with their healthcare team and consider vaccination against the condition. This is following an outbreak of meningitis C in New York, where regular intimate contact with male partners met through a website, smartphone application, bar or party, and being HIV positive, were key risk factors.

Some of these vaccinations may be available from your HIV clinic, but for others you may need to see your GP. In some cases, you may need to have disclosed your HIV status to your GP to be eligible for free vaccination.

You can find out more about vaccinations in NAM’s booklet HIV, GPs & other primary care.

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this section.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.