340 HIV positive prisoners in Tihar

Neeraj Chauhan, May 30, 2011,  

NEW DELHI: It might come as a shock but Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre (ICTC) figures have revealed that there are 340 HIV positive prisoners in Tihar jail, South Asia’s biggest prison. The statistics show that most of the prisoners among these 340 HIV positive prisoners are intravenous drug users. These prisoners are getting free treatment from jail authorities under the de-addition programme called OST (Opioid Substitution Treatment).

Jail sources said that prisoners did not know about their HIV status earlier and when they came to know about such programme in Tihar, they joined the centre. Officials say six to eight percent population of Tihar is HIV positive, but it is a fluctuating figure. “Presently, there are 11,800 prisoners in Tihar and this number keeps on fluctuating. So, HIV positive prisoners’ status is also variable because people come and go and they get treatment while being lodged here. All those at the centre have benefited,” said Sunil Gupta, Tihar spokesperson.

In the last three years, around 5,700 prisoners, who have taken drugs at least once in life, have undergone tests at this centre. Before June 2008 Tihar jail had no mechanism to identify the HIV positive inmates and whenever any government agency of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) asked the authorities, a rough figure was provided. In June 2008, Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre was opened at Tihar with the help of NACO.

Sunil Gupta said that they have been able to identify such large number of HIV positive prisoners inside only through ICTC and they all were affected with it before they came here.

Officials said that out of 340 prisoners, 210 are intravenous drug users who have once in their life used injections to consume drugs and they have been repeat offenders in drug abuse. He added that medicines under the treatment of HIV positive are very costly and jail authorities provide these medicines for free to the affected inmates apart from counseling. Earlier, authorities used to send the suspected HIV positive prisoners to Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital for treatment but ICTC is located in jail itself with dedicated counselors. The centre provides treatment with the help of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), NGOs and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Gupta said they are providing this treatment to all identified HIV positive inmates so that they don’t spread this disease when they are released on bail. Officials said that Tihar is also the only jail in India which is providing OST treatment to prisoners who are drug addicts and could be affected with HIV.


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