HYDERABAD: The outbreak of Covid-19 and the imposition of back-to-back lockdowns disrupted the HIV testing protocols for individuals vulnerable to contracting the virus in Telangana, found a new study. The report also pointed out that such delays could likely have impacted the efforts to prevent progression of HIV to AIDS, which was the more fatal manifestation of the viral infection.
The study on this subject was carried out by researchers from YR Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai, in collaboration with their counterparts in John Hopkins University, Maryland, in the States of Maharashtra and Telangana. It was published in the Journal of International AIDS Society. In Telangana, they studied 26 persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations susceptible to contracting the virus such as sex workers, transpersons and homosexual men.
The crucial findings of the study was that most persons whom they surveyed were struggling to get basic tests done in the government set-up. These tests included HIV RNA testing, HIV Antibody testing and CD4 testing. The study found: “People not living with HIV reported challenges in accessing HIV antibody testing at hospitals due to travel restrictions and fear of contracting Covid-19.”
Participants also reported confusion over which clinics were open, given that hospitals were transformed into Covid clinics. In other cases, the hospitals cancelled or deferred test appointments. Some experienced a delay in getting results, the study mentioned.
Such a difficulty in getting tests done on time can also lead to an increase in transmission of the viral infection, as in Telangana it was predominantly spreading through sexual intercourse. Telangana also has the fifth highest disease burden of HIV infections (1.58 lakh, as of 2019).
ART saw less disruptions
Meanwhile, the PLHIVs reported uninterrupted supply of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) medicines, which until the outbreak of the pandemic was supplied only once every month. However, in light of the pandemic, the national programme allowed HIV positive patients to take the ART medicines in bulk for three months and also avail home delivery. However, with medicines being given for longer duration in larger quantities and the fact that they were being delivered at doorstep, made some participants apprehensive about their condition becoming known.
State records 164 cases, 1 death
Telangana recorded 164 cases of Covid-19 on Saturday with 36,999 tests conducted. The State also saw 186 recoveries taking active cases lower to 3,815. One death was also reported on the day taking the toll to 3,964. The highest cases came in from GHMC with 51 cases, followed by 14 cases in Medchal and 12 cases in Rangareddy. Five of the 33 districts saw zero new cases.