Ranchi, Sept. 23: Inspector general (prisons) S.S. Tiwary has shot off a letter to the Jharkhand State Aids Control Society (JSACS) seeking its help in conducting HIV tests on inmates lodged in all the state prisons.
The letter, addressed to JSACS additional project director Birendra Prasad, said the authorities were blissfully unaware of the medical condition of most of the inmates lodged in the prisons and if precautions were not taken, health hazards were likely.
Therefore, Tiwary has appealed to the society to intervene and examine the inmates, besides conducting classes on behavioural awareness inside the prisons.
Jharkhand has as many as 27 jails, five of which are central prisons, besides district and sub-divisional prisons.
Ranchi houses Birsa Munda Central Jail, which has an estimated 3,000 inmates — ranging from hardcore Naxalites to drug lords.
Sources said the other central jails too lodged similar numbers of prisoners.
The sub-divisional jails, however, accommodate a maximum of 1,000-1,200 inmates.
Though the IG (prisons) could not be contacted, Prasad confirmed that he had received a letter on testing the prisoners for HIV and dubbed it a “welcome move”.
“We are happy that awareness levels are increasing at all levels, from the common man to government officials. It is probably the first time that such a request has been put forth to us by the prison authorities. We will soon draw a plan in this regard,” he said.
Prasad added they would not be surprised if a sizeable number of inmates tested positive. “The inmates come from various backgrounds and places. They have been involved in illegal activities. With the kind of lifestyles they have led, it is very likely that they might have caught the deadly virus but are unaware of it. It is dangerous, both for them and their fellow inmates.”
This apart, when such prisoners were released, there was always a chance that they spread the disease to others, the JSACS official claimed.
The prevalence rate of AIDS in Jharkhand is 1.13 person per lakh population, much better than the country’s average of 3.3 persons per lakh population.
However, the number of people testing positive for the disease has jumped by 1,000 or so in the last couple of years.
JSACS has documented around 11,000 patients in Jharkhand, of which only around 9,000 have been identified.
However, with the focus now shifting to jails, changes and control are likely.