As many as 266 inmates of the Kapurthala central jail have tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the past three-and-a-half years.
From 17 positive cases in 2013, the number of prisoners affected with HIV reached 118 in 2014, revealed data procured by the HT from the jail superintendent under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
2015 witnessed a downward trend with 92 cases surfacing in the year, but in the first four months of this year, 39 inmates have tested positive, once again ringing alarm bells.
Jail minister Sohan Singh Thandal said: “I am already aware of this problem. The jail department has coordinated with specialists at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, to provide best-possible treatment to all HIV-positive inmates.”
Sharing syringes, addicts falling victim?
Sources said HIV is prevalent among addicts, who are mostly injection drug users (IDUs). They get the syringe by bribing a few jail officials and share the same equipment with other drug users, increasing the risk of contracting HIV infection, said sources.
Kapurthala jail deputy superintendent DS Bhatti, however, claimed none of the inmates have got infected after getting lodged in the jail. “Whenever any convict or undertrial is brought to the jail, he undergoes medical tests. All those who have tested positive for HIV were already infected,” he said.
Violation: Infected inmates kept in separate cells
The mobile van of the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC), Kapurthala civil hospital, conducts HIV screening on the jail premises every Tuesday. After screening and diagnosis, those tested positive are referred to the Antiretroviral Therapy Centre (ART) centre in Jalandhar civil hospital.
While claiming that special diet is being provided to the infected inmates, the jail authorities stated in writing that the patients -- both prisoners and undertrials -- are being kept in separate cells called “security wards”.
As per the National Aids Control Organisation, discrimination with HIV/AIDS patients in public as well in private places is prohibited. Sources said prisoners fear being sent to these cells and about others coming to know about their medical condition.
Punjab State Aids Control Society chairman Hussan Lal was not available for comment.
Year: HIV+ inmates
2016 (till April 30): 39