July 8, 2009 5:07:46 am
The government has plans to set up link Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) centres in jails to ensure the easy availability of drugs for HIV positive prisoners. Presently,a review of the ART centres is underway and a national team including Dr B B Rewary,national coordinator for the governments ART programme and other National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) officials will be visiting Pune on July 9 and 10.
When contacted,Rewary told The Indian Express that there are 217 ART centres and 254 community care centres in the country. “Nearly 2.3 lakh HIV positive persons are on ART and we are in the process of reviewing the ART centres. A decision will also be taken soon about setting link ART centres in the jails.”
NACO coordinator for the Western region of Maharashtra and Goa Rekha Jain,when contacted said they were toying with the possibility of converting the facility of integrated counselling and treatment centres at five jails in Maharashtra to function as link ART centres. “This means,apart from prevention and counselling,HIV positive jail inmates who need treatment can get ART at the prison rather than be referred to nodal centres,” says Jain.
“We are talking to the jail authorities and five such link ART centers are likely to be set up soon at jails in Pune,Thane,Amravati,Aurangabad and Nashik,” says Jain. In Maharashtra an approximate 60,000 HIV positive people whose CD 4 count is failing and below 250 are receiving the ART while 1.5 lakh HIV people have been registered for care and support,says Jain.
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When contacted at Sassoon hospital,authorities at the ART centre said that there are 48 HIV positive prisoners at Yerawada jail in Pune and 15 are on ART,while two died due to AIDS.
“Every six months a follow up is done to check their CD 4 count and drugs are given on a monthly basis,” says Dr D B Kadam,head of the ART centre at Sassoon. The officials did point out that several times the prisoners who required treatment were unable to come on the day of the medical appointment. They turn up later,officials said. However counsellors and other doctors from Sassoon hospital are also sent to the jail and a follow up is maintained.
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