World Aids Day today

10% of HIV cases detected in jails

CHANDIGARH: The state has seen a sudden jump in HIV/AIDS cases in the past two years and Punjab’s jails are one of the biggest contributors.

10% of HIV cases detected in jails

Students stand in the shape of a ribbon to express solidarity with people having HIV/AIDS, in Amritsar on Saturday. AFP

editorial@tribune.com

Logo: World Aids Day

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 30

The state has seen a sudden jump in HIV/AIDS cases in the past two years and Punjab’s jails are one of the biggest contributors.

As per the report of the State Aids Control Society, jails have been registering almost 10 per cent of the fresh cases detected in the state every year. The number of new patients detected in jails is almost 150 times more than the number detected from the general population of the state.

For the past three years, on an average, 7,500 fresh cases are being reported annually from the state. As many as 8,133 new cases were witnessed in 2018-19; 6,730 in 2017-18 and around 6,000 fresh cases were reported in 2016-17. This year till October 31, a total of 6,751 cases have been reported.

And every year, for the past four years, around 700 new cases are from jails. In 2016-17, 21,098 jail inmates were tested for HIV in all nine central jails of the state and 658 of them tested positive, 599 tested positive in 2017-18, 727 in 2018-19 and 685 cases have surfaced this year till October 31.

At present, there are over 23,000 prisoners in the state, which means every year, around three per cent of the new prisoners test positive for the disease. On the other hand, just 0.02 per cent of the general population of the state tests positive for HIV. This means in jails, the number of new patients detected with the virus is almost 150 times more than that of the general population of the state.

Experts said the situation indicated the magnitude of crisis created by intravenous drugs. The bigger concern among health experts is that in jails, clusters of the affected population have come into existence, which will spread the disease, once they will go outside.

Dr Manpreet Chhatwal, Additional Project Director, Punjab State AIDS Control Society, accepts that jails contribute most of the HIV cases in the state. “Due to the government's crackdown on drug smugglers, the number of addicts in jails has increased. So, the HIV prevalence is much higher in jails as compared to the general population.”

Significantly, Punjab has witnessed a steep jump in the cases of HIV/AIDS in the past three years as the number of confirmed cases has increased 30 to 40 per cent. During this time, the state government started out patient opioid assisted treatment (OOAT) clinics, the aim of which was to shift drug addicts to buprenorphine medicine, so that they stop the use of drugs intravenously.

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BOX 1

Data of new HIV-positive patients

Year Cases in state cases from jails

2016-17 6,000 658

2017-18 6,730 599

2018-19 8,133 727

2019-20 6,751* 589 or 685*?

*Till Oct 31

--------------------------------

BOX 2

Dist Total cases since 1993

Amritsar 16,848

Ludhiana 9,311

Jalandhar 8,081

Patiala 7,953

Gurdaspur 3,330

Bathinda 3,442

Tarn Taran 3,183

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