India is estimated to have nearly 23.49 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in 2019, according to the government’s HIV estimates report (2019). As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) estimates, the HIV epidemic has an overall decreasing trend in the country with estimated annual new HIV infections declining by 37 per cent between 2010 and 2019. However, how do things change amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
We surely need to have a comprehensive and broader approach, says Dr Arvind Aggarwal, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute as he shares more about HIV, and explains if HIV-AIDS patients are more prone to COVID infection.
*First, we need to understand both infections separately. HIV crashes immunity in the patients and so does COVID; hence such patients need to be extra careful and cautious.
As per MoHFW, HIV infection in India is mainly caused by engagement in high risk behaviours. The main high-risk behaviours identified for HIV infection in India includes unprotected heterosexual behaviour, unprotected homosexual behaviour, and unsafe injecting drug use behaviour.
*”COVID is not merely a respiratory infection, rather it affects the body’s defence mechanism. It affects blood vessels which aggravate the disease a person is already suffering from and also creates the risk of other diseases. While studies are in process and till date no separate major link has been found between both, an HIV-infected patient needs to follow precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, taking her/his medicines as per doctors’ prescription and report to the doctor even if mild symptoms or doubt occurs,” says the doctor.
A significant number of people are already aware of the basic precautions to be taken in order to avoid the risk of catching HIV but this information needs to be more diverse now. Youth these days are excited about tattoos and piercings, here are some things they must keep in mind, says the expert.
*Ask your tattoo artist to use unused, fresh needles for tattooing and piercing.
*At salons, there are chances of accidentally getting cuts from blades, hence assure that fresh blades are being used. Precaution is the key.
*Although HIV is not permanently curable, one can delay the onset through proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle.
“Over time, a number of significant advancements have been introduced for the treatment of HIV and AIDS. The life expectancy of HIV patients through proper treatment has also been significantly increased. But what is needed at this point in time is removing social stigma while creating awareness,” Dr Aggarwal tells indianexpress.com.
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