Struggle to access HIV testing in Japan as health centers prioritize COVID-19

Japan Times -- Mar 17
Many public health centers in Japan are suspending HIV antibody tests, which had been available for free and under anonymity, as they are too busy dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the health ministry, the number of HIV tests conducted at facilities including public health centers in Japan fell 51.5% from the preceding year in 2020, to 68,998.

As a result, health centers that continue to offer HIV testing despite the COVID-19 crisis are being flooded with applications from people hoping to take such tests.

In response to concerns over delays in treatment for HIV carriers and a possible spread of HIV infections, the ministry is advising health centers to come up with alternative measures, such as outsourcing HIV testing.

In Saitama Prefecture, eight of its 17 public health centers suspended HIV testing through March.

The center in the city of Soka in the prefecture has halted its provision of HIV testing since September last year, with its testing area now being used for storage of equipment related to COVID-19. “We suspended HIV testing to prevent people coming here (for the test) from catching the novel coronavirus,” an official at the center said, adding that the center is considering if and when it will resume HIV testing.

At the health center in the city of Kawagoe, also in the prefecture, HIV tests are conducted about three times a month, with the number of people taking the test halved from the normal level of 30.

- Japan Times