VARANASI: Doctors at Varanasi District Hospital have seen 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 undergoing treatment at the district hospital claimed that they had neither received a blood transfusion nor had unprotected sex, but that they had tested positive after getting tattoos.
Jayant (name changed), 20, a resident of the district’s Baragaon neighborhood, got his hand tattooed at a fair held in the village. After a few months, her health began to deteriorate. He had a high fever and became weak. Even after all the treatments, he didn’t get any relief, so the doctors had him tested for HIV. After investigation, he tested positive. But Jayant was not convinced that the report was correct. He told the doctor that he was not yet married, that he had no physical relationship with anyone and that he had never been transfused. The doctors then discovered his tattoo and told him that was the reason.
Something similar happened with a young woman, Shefali (name changed), from Nagwan locality. She got tattooed by a peddler. After a few days, her condition began to deteriorate. After a pathological examination, it was found that she was HIV positive.
Dr. Preeti Agarwal, chief medical officer of the antiretroviral treatment (ART) center at Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, said the two had no idea about the main cause of HIV infection. “They did not have unprotected sex nor were they transfused with infected blood. When counseled at the center it appeared that they had started having health problems after getting a tattoo,” Dr Agarwal said.
She said the root cause of the problem is the use of infected needles when tattooing. In fact, the needle with which the tattoo is made is very expensive. Normally, after getting a tattoo, the needle should be destroyed. But to earn more, tattoo artists use the same needle on multiple people. “However, people who get tattoos are unaware of this danger. They don’t even see if the tattoo artist put a new needle in the machine. In such a situation, if an HIV-infected person gets tattooed with this needle, there is a risk that others will get HIV infection from using the same needle,” she added.
Dr. Agarwal said proper precautions must be taken before getting a tattoo. In order to save money, getting a tattoo at a fair or hawker can be disastrous. “Before getting a tattoo, you have to see if a new needle has been put in the machine or not. People who have recently had tattoos should get tested for HIV, so they can start treatment immediately,” she suggested.