Centre asks states to give condoms to prisoners

KOLKATA, Feb. 23: The Union home ministry has requested directors-general (prison) of all states to distribute condoms among HIV-infected inmates of major correctional homes to stop the growth of HIV population in correctional homes.

Rajib Chatterjee, for The Statesman.

The Centre has observed that “close physical proximity” of the inmates and homosexual activities among them have made some jail inmates vulnerable to HIV. The Centre has written a letter (Number: F.N. 17013/24/2007-PR), to directors-general of prison of all states recently in this regard. The letter, which is available with The Statesman, reads: “The prevalence of HIV within prisons is usually several times than that in the outside world.”

The letter further reads: “It is requested that all prison inmates be provided access to primary prevention services. It is also requested that counselling and testing centres be set up with the support of State Aids Control Societies in major prisons like central jails. Condoms may be distributed among the inmates.” The order was issued by the director (CS-II), Mrs Rita Acharya.
A senior state jail department official said, 16 out of 977 inmates of Presidency correctional home have been tested positive for HIV in the past 11 months. The percentage of HIV population in Presidency correctional home (2%) is higher than the world’s average HIV population (0.04 %), he said. He added, voluntary testing and counselling centres would be set up at Dum Dum correctional home and Alipur central jail next month.

The letter states:

“Prisons have a number of characteristics, which are conducive to the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV infections. It happens due to low awareness levels on STIs , HIV/AIDS, lack of access to preventive practices, overcrowding, poor sanitation conditions, close proximity of the inmates, loneliness, lack of social control, lack of entertainment.” The letter mentioned that several jail inmates have developed homosexuality for staying away from families for a longer time.
“The prison population is inherently dynamic with releases, admissions and transfer (of inmates) occurring regularly. The vulnerability of (HIV) population can be prevented through awareness,” the letter states. The Union home ministry officials feel that the measures such as setting up “counselling and testing services” in correctional homes will help in “bringing about a behaviour change among prison inmates”.

The Centre has requested the state governments to give proper care and special treatment to HIV infected inmates at correctional homes in order to stop the disease from spreading to other prisoners. It also requested the states to train prison personnel on prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and organise workshops with the help of the State Aids Control Societies.

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