In a video posted on TikTok in South Africa and sent to Africa Check on WhatsApp, a woman challenges people vaccinated against COVID-19 to take HIV test.
“Chances are you will be testing positive,” she says. She later adds that “it’s not because you got” the HIV virus – “you’re playing safe, you’re a good person”. It’s because the COVID vaccine “is suppressing your immune [system], is killing off your immune”. If you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 “you’re operating at 35% [immune system] capacity”.
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, which does weaken the body’s disease-fighting immune system. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the life-threatening acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
But no COVID-19 vaccine will cause a person to test positive for HIV. And the vaccines strengthen – not weaken – the immune system.
Trial vaccine causing false HIV positives never approved for use
There is one example of a COVID-19 vaccine interfering with HIV tests. The woman in the video seems to refer to it when she says: “Australia has already withdrawn the vaccine because they first discovered this whole thing about people testing positive for HIV.”
Africa Check has reported on this in the past. An Australian vaccine trial was abandoned after the vaccine candidate was found to interfere with some HIV tests.
The vaccine candidate was developed by Biotech Company CSL and Australia’s University of Queensland. CSL announced in December 2020 that the development of the vaccine would not proceed any further than the first phase trials, which had detected that it interfered with HIV tests. The vaccine was never made available to the public.
Rather than weakening anyone’s immune system, a particular ingredient in the vaccine caused the immune system of some trial participants to generate antibodies against the ingredient, as if defending the body from a virus.
CSL said: “There is no possibility the vaccine causes infection, and routine follow-up tests confirmed there is no HIV virus present.” There was no possibility of contracting HIV from the vaccine.
And the COVID vaccines approved for use have passed even more stringent safety requirements.
COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective
COVID-19 vaccines have been thoroughly tested to ensure that they are safe and effective. To learn more about how vaccines are approved for use, Africa Check has several factsheets on the vaccine approval process in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
The most common side-effects of COVID vaccines include mild fever, chills, tiredness, headache and muscle ache. As South Africa’s health department says: “Most reactions to vaccines are mild and go away within a few days on their own.”
Severe reactions like difficulty breathing or dizziness are rare, and people are monitored for a short time after vaccination so that they can be treated immediately if they develop a severe reaction.
Find more information about vaccines on the health department’s official COVID-19 website.
As well as being safe, vaccines also demonstrably lower the risk that a person will contract, transmit or suffer severe symptoms of COVID-19.
An August 2021 review of several large real-world studies analysed the effectiveness of three COVID -19 vaccines in five countries. Among other findings, the report concluded: “Most importantly, the currently available COVID ‐19 vaccines appear to be very effective in preventing severe complications and deaths from COVID ‐19 in adults of all ages.”
And there is zero evidence that any COVID vaccine causes the immune system to function “at 35% capacity”.
A collaboration between Daily Trust and Africa Check to fight health misinformation.