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Inmate letter push prompts jail HIV test

A letter from an inmate asking Bihar State AIDS Control Society to facilitate HIV tests in jails has borne fruit. The facility has been introduced in prisons from January.

So far, HIV tests have been conducted in Beur Central Jail, Phulwarisharif Camp Jail and Danapur sub-divisional and Patna City sub-divisional jails.

The society is also planning to conduct tests at Bhagalpur Central Jail.

The AIDS control society chairperson, Sanjeev Kumar Sinha, told The Telegraph that he received a letter from a prisoner in June 2012, requesting the group to carry out HIV tests in the prisons.

“The prisoner asked me to make testing facility available in jails because he was afraid to see multiple inmates using a single razor for shaving,” Sinha said.

He added: “When I received the letter, I realised that HIV tests should be conducted in jails.”

On the number of inmates found to be infected with HIV since January, Sinha said: “Of the 220 people tested at Beur, we found two persons affected by the HIV virus. The tests were carried out in Beur jail between January 8 and January 15. We also conducted tests at Phulwarisharif Camp Jail between January 17 and January 24. Three were found to be infected. According to National AIDS Control Organisation’s 2011 figures, which were released recently, around 0.2 per cent population in Bihar are affected by the HIV virus that leads to AIDS. But as far as the recent tests are concerned within the state jails, we found 2 per cent inmates HIV positive. This is dangerous.”

Sinha added that it was not easy for the society officials to conduct the tests on jail inmates.

“First, we had to counsel them. Because according to rules, HIV tests can be conducted on a person only if he/she agrees to it. We convinced the inmates and I was happy that a good number of people showed up for the counselling sessions,” Sinha said.

He added that if someone is tested HIV positive, the AIDS control society would give him/her the required medicines.


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