TODAY -
Guv launches HIV/AIDS programmes in jails
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, December 01 2010: Manipur Governor Gurbachand Jagat Wednesday launched the comprehensive HIV prevention, care and support for inmates of the Sajiwa Central Prison on the occasion of the World AIDS Day observed at the 1st battalion Manipur Rifles ground.

The initiative supported in part by UNODC will be implemented jointly by the Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MACS), the state Department of Prison and Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+), according to MACS officials.

Besides the prison intervention the Governor also released the draft revised State AIDS Policy and also launched the mobile ICTC and IEC van together with Chief Minister O Ibobi who attended the function as president.

Addressing the function, the Governor called for a greater involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS to safeguard the future of Manipur asserting that the issue (HIV and AIDS) is no longer a mere health issue.

It has covered all aspects of life social, economic, legal, human rights and even politics, the Governor observed.

Stressing on the need for a concerted effort of all section of the society, he said "The all-out and concerted effort of the health officials and concerned activities of the state will not be sufficient in tackling this issue.

The civil societies have to be actively involved" .

Talking on the State AIDS Policy, the first in the country, he recalled that it was drafted in 1996 and has been amended to suit the evolving nature of the epidemic.

Acknowledging the role of NGOs in fighting the epidemic and appreciating the swiftness with which JACs are formed and issues highlighted in the state, the Governor said that promptness and sincere efforts are necessary to fight HIV.

"I would be happy to read that the various lups, civil societies and students' bodies have instituted a cell to address issues related to HIV and AIDS", he added.

SP Central Jail Themthing talking on the launching of the Comprehensive HIV prevention, care and support for inmates of Sajiwa Central Prison said that such an initiative has been in need for a long time in Sajiwa jail where there is a large number of drug users are inmates.

The jail also has a few inmates who are on ART.

Prisons in the state lack the infrastructure for correction and reformation of inmates and such initiatives will be very helpful, the SP added.

The initiative will provide or link up with various services like needle and syringe programmes (NSEP), Opioid substitution therapy (OST) and other drug dependence treatment, HIV testing and counseling, Antiretroviral therapy (ART), prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, condom promotion, targeted information, education and communication (IEC) for IDUs and their sexual partners, vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) .

Speaking on the need for a prison intervention Abhiram Mongjam, joint director (TI), MACS, said "We cannot afford to neglect any group of people.

Services should reach each and everyone and inside the prison too.

The inmates like anyone else deserve treatment, care and support.

Jails in the state currently lack the expertise to address issues related to drug use and HIV and AIDS.

Almost every day there are reports of abscess among inmates.

Abscess which affected before they were put in jail deteriorates and gets noticed only after days or weeks in jail.

Earlier such cases were referred to JN Hospital however the jail medical staff is now able to tackle it.

In June 2009 forty drug user inmates in Sajiwa voluntarily took part in an awareness programme conducted by MNP+ inside the jail.

The jail department, MACS and MNP+ have been working on a service package for inmates.

"Since there is limited mobility a service package should be designed to address their need.

The jail can be a place where they can learn rather than their stay being perceived as punishment for a crime", MNP+ officials said.

Currently around 620 male inmates are lodged in Sajiwa jail while around 38 female are lodged in the central jail in Imphal.

Sajiwa has witnessed highest incidence of inmates with a history of drug use.

"The percentage of drug users among the inmates could be as high as 20 to 30 percent", Themthing.

A number of parents put drug user children in prison, under the pretext of family violence and petty crime, hoping that incarceration for a few months will make them free of their drug use.

Sajiwa jail has drug user inmates who have repeatedly come back.

Imprisonment as an approach to address drug use has failed.

"Parents would do anything to make their children leave drugs but imprisonment is wrong; they (drug users) become vindictive and take to drugs again once they are set free.

There are other approaches like rehabilitation and OST", MNP+ official said.

"Besides drug use MSM (male having sex with male) activities cannot be ruled out in a prison setup.

Limited access to condom or absence of it could make inmates involved in such activities vulnerable to STIs including HIV", said Ajitshwor of, MNP+ .

Observing World AIDS Day Manipur Legislatures' Forum on HIV and AIDS (MLFA) emphasized the need to address issues faced by people living with HIV and AIDS and infected children.

Speaking at the occasion Dr..IIbohalbi, secretary, MLFA, said that the governing council of the forum is trying to come up with a bill to provide various clinical investigations free of cost to PLHIVs at government hospitals.

"It is difficult to bear such expenses because a lot of tests have to be done and many even do not have money to travel to ART centres" .

Members of the forum also distributed blankets to around 200 children who came to participate in the World AIDS Day observation at the Manipur State Assembly.

This year the observation has provided an opportunity for the forum members to interact with children infected and affected by the epidemic.

"It's a rare occasion when political leaders of the state get to interact with them (children), this will give the form members a firsthand account of issues that children in the state are facing", said Sushil Huidrom, State Coordinator, UNAIDS.


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