The number of HIV-positive inmates at Kapurthala Central Jail has witnessed a sharp increase in the past three years.
As per the information procured by Hindustan Times from the Kapurthala Central Jail superintendent under the Right to Information Act, the number of HIV-positive cases which were only seven in 2012, increased to 17 in the next year (2013).
In 2014, the prisoners affected with HIV infection increased to an alarming level (118), and in 2015 till July 9, their numbers have already reached 56.
The gloomy picture about the condition of inmates in the jail does not end here, as two other deadly diseases--Hepatitis C, and B--have also considerably increased among them.
In 2013, there were 24 inmates affected with Hepatitis C which increased to 30 in 2014 and till July 9, their number was 10.
Similarly, 18 inmates were diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 2013, and 15 were affected by the disease in 2014.
The jail sources said prevalence of deadly HIV has been consistently increasing among drug addict inmates who were mostly injecting drug users (IDU). "The drug addict inmates prefer syringe to administer drug directly into the body, rather than inhaling.
They get syringe from corrupt jail officials and share the same syringe to take a drug, which increases the risk of HIV and other diseases," they added.
The more shocking revelation which the jail authorities gave in writing was that the HIV patients (prisoners and undertrials) were being kept in separate cells called "security wards", which was in violation of the specified guidelines and human rights laws.
Sources said none of the prisoners came forward fearing that if they tested positive of HIV infection or any other disease, they would be sent into these cells and others would easily acknowledge him or her affected with this deadly disease.
As per National AIDS Control Organisation, it prohibits discrimination of HIV/AIDS patients in public as well in private places. It prohibits discrimination of an HIV/AIDS patient in matters of employment, education, healthcare, travel, insurance, residence, and property, etc, based on their HIV status.
In its reply, jail authorities claimed that special diet was being regularly provided to the patients in these wards by the jail staff.
Further, HIV screening is conducted inside the jail by Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) mobile van from Kapurthala civil hospital on every Tuesday and after screening and diagnosis, the patients are being referred to Jalandhar Civil Hospital.
It has been learnt that the jail authorities also do not send prisoners to the local anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre on time, which leads to delay in treatment of such HIV-positive patients.
When contacted, Jail minister Sohan Singh Thandal said he hasn't got any such report and asked the correspondent to contact the jail superintendent.
Hussan Lal, project director, Punjab State AIDS Control Society, said, "If HIV-positive inmates are being kept in separate cells in the jail, it is matter of concern." He said he would personally look into this matter. When asked over the sharp increase in HIV positive cases in jails, he asked to contact the jail department.
Jail superintendent Paramjit Singh was unavailable for comments despite repeated calls.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
The hepatitis C virus is a blood-borne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment and transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.