Tihar gets AIDS clinic, five test positives in fortnight

June 27th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) For the first time in the history of the capital’s sprawling Tihar jail - which houses around 13,000 inmates, five prisoners have tested positive for HIV/AIDS within a fortnight, alarming the authorities. “In the last 15 days, we have got the first Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) but it’s sad that five of our inmates have been found positive in the last two weeks,” said B.K. Gupta, director general of Tihar.

The ICTC centre was set up in collaboration with the National Aids Control Organisation.

“Earlier, we used to take our inmates for testing outside the jail premises. But with this new clinic, inmates can be counselled before undergoing the test,” Gupta told IANS.

He said though the situation was worrying, the new clinic was giving the jail authorities the option of interacting with the inmates, counselling them and persuading them to refrain from unsafe practices.

Gupta said with this HIV prevention programme, “we try to make sure that when these inmates go out of jail, they don’t spread the disease”.

Officials said with these five fresh cases, the HIV positive population in Tihar had gone up to 45 — 44 men and one woman. All the new cases are men who are drug addicts.

The authorities said drug abuse, unsafe and abnormal sexual practices among many Tihar inmates were the reason behind the spread of HIV. Many inmates indulge in sodomy, especially with the new inmates in their ward.

“The Tihar jail, which houses over 13,000 inmates, is one of India’s most guarded and high profile prisons, but even here drugs manage to find their way in - thanks to some security men and visitors,” said a prison official.

“Some guards connive with the prisoners. At least eight percent of Tihar inmates are drug addicts,” a prison official.

With at least 2.5 million patients of the disease, India is the third largest HIV/AIDS prevalent country in the world.

Prison experts say there are around 300,000 prisoners across India and if drug abuse is not controlled, HIV could become a major problem for inmates and a headache for the authorities.

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