Times of India
01 October 2010
State prisons are turning into HIV hubs with a three–fold rise in the number of fresh HIV cases detected in various prisons this year. Figures collated by a state government body which works closely with HIV positive persons throws up the alarming fact: as against the 119 prisoner from across the state who tested positive for HIV in 2009, the count this year has touched 362 as on date. The period between April to August this year alone saw the number touch the 239 mark. Also, HIV accounts for 30 per cent of the average 100–120 prison deaths each year in the state.
More alarming is the fact that these figures are only approximate. For, there is no mandatory HIV screening of prisoners at the time of admission and thus officials admit that they are not aware of HIV status of many inmates in various state prisons. "Some persons consider HIV tests to be taboo and do not give their consent to be screened. Even though they belong to the high risk group, their status remains unknown," said R V Chandravadan, project director of AP state AIDS control society (APSACS).
With rampant instances of men having sex with men (MSM) once they are secluded from mainstream society and confined to their barracks, this figure is a fair indicator of the vulnerability of other prisoners, which is now manifest in the form of diseases.
"A large number of them are presently suffering from genital ulcer disease (GUD) which results from having unnatural forms of sex. Once diagnosed with such diseases, they become ten times more susceptible to acquiring AIDS at a later date," said a medical practitioner who recently visited and interacted with medical officers of two central prisons in the state.
With APSACS having introduced its ‘Raksha’ project in state prisons in February last year as part of which prisoners are screened and those carrying the HIV infection sent for treatment, the mechanism is presently in place. But no decision has been taken yet by the prison authorities to keep a check on the HIV positive count once APSACS concludes its intervention programme next year.
"Habitual offenders who keep coming back to prison for petty crimes often indulge in unsafe sex outside and have multiple partners thus posing a threat to other inmates," said a prison superintendent.
Sunday, Feb 26th
Last update:05:44:44 AM IST