97 inmates of the overcrowded Tihar jail are HIV positive
Reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that at the end of 2013, Asia’s largest prison, Tihar Jail, had as many as 97 people out of the total 14,071 prisoners who were HIV/AIDS positive. This number constitutes nearly 0.7% of the total inmates and includes two females. Out of these, 14 prisoners are on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The Tihar jail is overcrowded and has 13,445 male and 626 female inmates while its capacity is 6,250. Out of the 13,445 prisoners, 10,588 are undertrials, including 281 foreign nationals. Further, 16 prisoners on death row are also held there. The construction of a new prison complex to decongest Tihar at Mandoli in north-east Delhi is delayed.
Though the route of infection is not known with certainty, it is suspected that the reportedly intravenous drug use is the cause in many of the cases. The number of HIV-positive inmates was 109 (2009), which increased to 124 (2010), had a fall to 115 (2011) and further to 91 (2012). This shows that there has been no significant variation in the number of HIV positive cases in Tihar. The jail authorities do not have any statistics to suggest whether any prisoner contracted HIV after being lodged in Tihar Jail and new cases are detected when the prisoners undergo HIV screening. In the jail, there is no provision for keeping the HIV-infected inmates separately and all are lodged together. The check up and treatment of the HIV-infected prisoners is done by the jail authorities at government expense, including the ART (Antiretroviral Therapy).