Many parts of the world are currently following a partial or complete lockdown to control coronavirus spread. But the health experts have warned that such preventive measures might increase the risk of another deadly disease, HIV.
Travis Sanchez who is an epidemiologist at Emory University has worked on this subject and concluded that HIV is a big health risk during this time when people are at home. He conducted an online survey with 1000 participants who characterize themselves as gays. Nearly half of them added that their sexual partners have been reduced during this coronavirus lockdown period. They also reported that finding the new partners through hook-up apps was also reduced during this time.
It looks like a good thing, he says. Ideally, it means that the risk of HIV is reduced but in reality, the situation is opposite to this.
The coronavirus lockdown, which at one side has reduced the random sexual partners in gay men has also reduced the STDs testing facilities as thousands of testing clinics and medical centers are unable to provide these services for now. Sanchez warns that it means that a person is unable to get himself checked during this time. So even if he has a sexually transmitted disease like HIV, he would never know it.
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He said that there are high chances that people will be already infected even before they get complete access to the testing services and medical facilities. It would increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases’ transmission, especially HIV.
It is probably too early to tell if this HIV transmission during the coronavirus lockdown has any risky outcomes or not before next year. The U.S Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has published the new stats report for the year 2020. But many healthcare experts warn that the US’s goal of 75% reducing the sexually transmitted infections by the end of 2025.
The city Washington DC has already been hit by the HIV badly. The Whitman-Walker clinic one of the top testing centers for this virus and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) i.e. syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, has been stopped.
Nearly 50 people come here daily to get these tests done and for many of them have signed up for a routine checkup that is to be carried out once every three months.
Amanda Carya practicing nurse, says that all these people are now living without being tested. The clinic is currently taking only the ‘symptomatic’ patients and that too via appointment. That is why it is normal to expect a high increase in the cases of sexually transmitted infections mainly HIV.
The CDC says that previously it was expecting to see a drop in HIV cases as a limited number of STD’s are being diagnosed. But considering this lockdown and uncertainty of its duration; it is hard to say that STDs would be controlled. Without testing the people again, it can’t be stated whether or not HIV cases are decreasing or not.
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For HIV tests, the availability of testing is necessary before starting the treatment. Only this way the risk of this disease could be reduced, overall.
Dr. Matthew Spinelli from San Francisco shares his concerns over the homeless people and those who can’t, otherwise take tele-visits are completely unable to seek healthcare advice during this coronavirus lockdown.
This current pandemic has taught all governments to upgrade their healthcare units and medical facilities by showing systemic flaws. But in a way, it is bringing a positive change as health experts are now considering the prevention strategies and alternate strategies in case of another pandemic.