VARANASI: Doctors at the Varanasi district hospital have come across at least two patients who have tested positive for HIV in the past two months after getting body tattoos.
The Chief Medical Officer’s Office (CMO), Varanasi, has confirmed that the two patients receiving treatment at the district hospital have claimed they did not receive a blood transfusion or have had unprotected sex, but tested positive after getting tattoos.
Twenty-year-old Jayant (name changed), a resident of the Baragaon area of the district, had her hand tattooed at a fair held in the village. After a few months, her health began to deteriorate. She had a high fever and became weak. Even after all the treatments, she did not get any relief, so the doctors tested her for HIV. After investigation, she tested positive. But Jayant wasn’t convinced the report was correct. He told the doctor that he was not yet married, had no physical relationship with anyone and never had a blood transfusion. Later, the doctors found out about his tattoo and explained that this was the reason.
Something similar happened with a young woman, Shefali (name changed), from the town of Nagwan. She got the tattoo from a street vendor. After a few days, her condition began to deteriorate. After a pathological examination it was found that she was HIV positive.
Dr. Preeti Agarwal, senior physician at the antiretroviral treatment (ART) center at Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, said the two had no idea about the root cause of HIV infection. “They neither had unprotected sex nor were they transfused with infected blood. When they received counseling at the center, he realized that they began to experience health problems after getting tattooed,” said Dr. Agarwal.
She said that the root cause of the problem is the use of infected needles during the tattoo. Actually, the needle with which the tattoo is done is very expensive. Normally, after getting a tattoo, the needle needs to be destroyed. But to earn more, tattoo artists use the same needle on multiple people. “However, people who get tattoos are not aware of this danger. They don’t even see if the tattoo artist has put a new needle in the machine. In such a situation, if an HIV-infected person gets a tattoo with that needle, there is a risk that others will become infected with HIV from using the same needle,” she added.
Dr. Agarwal said that proper care should be taken before getting a tattoo. To save money, getting a tattoo at a fair or from a street vendor can be disastrous. “Before getting a tattoo you have to see if you have put a new needle in the machine or not. People who have recently gotten tattoos should get tested for HIV, so they can start treatment right away,” he suggested.