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Counselling Centre at Jail Helps Spread HIV Awareness

Pune: With 13 new HIV positive cases detected last month, the toll of HIV positive inmates at the Yerawada Central Jail has now reached 28.

Detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS among the inmates gained momentum following the launch of an integrated counselling and testing centre (ICTC) at the prison two months back. As a pilot project, the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) had started the ICTC at two central jails in the state from October 2.

“Following the example of the Yerawada and the Amravati Central Jails, other central jails can now seek permission to start an ICTC centre from the MSACS. Our only criteria is that the concerned jail has the required infrastructure and human resources to operate it independently,” said Prakash Sabde, state project director, MSACS.

Earlier, the Yerawada inmates were referred to an ICTC at the Sassoon general hospital. This was done at the insistence of prison doctors. Voluntarily approaching the ICTC for counselling and testing was not a practice among the inmates as there was no such facility at the prison, said Balasaheb Ughade, chief medial officer at the Yerawada Central Jail. “But now, be it an innocent query or the fear of developing an infection, inmates voluntarily approach the centre as it is located inside the campus,” Ughade said.

Around 66 prisoners approached the centre for counselling while 60 opted for testing, out of which six were detected positive in October. Around 70 inmates approached the centre in November, of which seven have been found to be HIV positive, Ughade said. “Of the 13, two have been referred to the ART centre at the Sassoon hospital. The rest are being closely monitored.” Before setting up the centre, the jail had 15 HIV positive inmates, among them, eight have been receiving Antiretroviral therapy since the last two years, he added. There are two technicians and one counsellor at the ICTC at the Yerawada Central Jail.

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