‘Test all prisoners for HIV’
10 Jan 2009
MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered the Maharashtra government to conduct voluntary counselling and HIV testing for its 7,000 jail inmates incarcerated in the four central prisons in Thane, Yerwada, Nashik and Amravati. The campaign is part of a massive exercise to assess the prevalence of HIV in jails across the state.
A division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud also formed a two member committee comprising Dr Alka Deshpande, head of anti-retroviral therapy at JJ Hospital and Prakash Sabade, director of Maharashtra State AIDS Control Organisation (MSACO). The committee has been asked to study the test results of the inmates and submit recommendations to tackle the problem of AIDS in prisons.
Though health activists say jail inmates constitute a high risk group, no figures are available on the number of HIV-positive prisoners. This makes it difficult to take steps for prevention of AIDS and provision of treatment to HIV-positive prisoners.
The matter came under the HC scanner last year during the hearing of a bail application by one HIV-positive prisoner who was serving life sentence in Pune’s Yerwada jail. It came to light that between 2001 and 2006, 32 HIV-positive prisoners had died in Yerwada jail, many due to lack of proper treatment and care. The court had then appointed advocates Anand Grover and Yug Choudhary as amicus curiae (friends of the court) to assist the judges in dealing with the issue.
“We are persuading prisoners to undergo HIV tests,” said public prosecutor Satish Borulkar. In the month of September, around 64 Yerwada jail inmates had undergone testing. Of these, eight had tested positive for HIV, said the prosecutor.