The number of people tested for HIV and sexually transmitted infections in Karnataka has declined sharply this year. This is an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The centres designated to conduct these tests failed to meet the required targets as many of the centres were not functioning fully during the pandemic. Moreover, the out-patient departments in all district hospitals saw very few patients during the pandemic. According to data provided by the Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society (KSAPS), only 26.42 % of the total targeted 26.34 lakh people have been tested in 2020-2021. The data collected is up to October, 2020. Out of the total 6.96 lakh people tested in 2020-2021, as many as 4682 were found positive for HIV. In the 2019-2020 year, 97.85 % of the testing target was met.
In addition to these, the number of tests conducted to detect sexually transmitted infections (STI) and reproductive tract infections (RTI) too dipped drastically. Only a total of 18.5 % of the targeted 4.28 lakh people were tested for STI/RTI. KSAPS tests people for STI or RTI as a person who is detected with this is two to nine times prone to get HIV.
T. Govindaraju, Deputy Director of KSAPS, admitted that the number of tests conducted for HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases had been affected due to the pandemic. He however said that in the coming months, they would try to increase the number of tests conducted amidst precautionary measures by deputing more mobile vans across the State. He also said that they wanted to focus particularly on high-risk groups, which include sex workers, homosexuals, truck drivers, migrants, and transgenders.
During the pandemic, blood collection too has taken a severe toll and several blood banks across the State are facing a shortage of blood.
While the targeted units of blood that was supposed to be collected in 2020-2021 was supposed to be 8.08 lakh, only 3.22 lakh units of blood have been collected. Of these, 2.65 lakh units of blood were through voluntary blood donations.
Chethan M. Gowda, founder, KHOON – a non-governmental organisation that promotes blood donations, said that the blood donations took a severe hit during the lockdown in March as blood donation camps could not be conducted and voluntary walk in donations also declined because of fear of transmission of COVID-19 and restricted movement of public.