Guwahati/Agartala, Oct 11: Nearly 114 inmates, mostly drug addicts, were detected as being HIV positive in various jails in Assam, officials said on Monday.
Assam's Inspector General of Prisons, Barnali Sharma said that in recent months 114 people, including a woman, have tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and effective measures have been taken for their treatment and prevention of spread of the disease.
"Health officials are further screening and testing their blood samples. Adequate steps were taken as per the health protocols. We would not disclose further details of the HIV cases in prisons in Assam due to obvious reasons," she told IANS telephonically.
A health official in central Assam's Nagaon district said nearly 85 jail inmates, including undertrials, recently tested HIV positive in the Central jail and the Special jail in Nagaon. The official said most of the prisoners are drug addicts and intravenous drug abusers (IDU) (people who self-inject drugs by syringe). These HIV cases were detected in recent times, the official added requesting anonymity.
Thousands of people, comprising drug abusers and peddlers, mainly youths, have been arrested by the security personnel in Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and other north-eastern states under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The health official said even after the release of these detainees, health workers remained in touch with their family members and gave them the necessary support, advice and feedback so that these people can continue with their treatment and lead a normal life. Officials of the AIDS Control societies in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur said the trend of IDUs is rising at an alarming rate among the youth between 15 and 20 years in the north-eastern states, especially in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.
"The IDU or the HIV/AIDS prevalence is now a major public health problem instead of a simple health issue. To check the rapidly rising trend, we are working with 11 departments of the Tripura government, including Education, Social Education and Welfare, Sports and the Police," Tripura State AIDS Control Society's Project Director, Phanindra Kumar Majumder told IANS.
The Assam Police have seized drugs worth nearly Rs 220 crore in separate incidents since May and arrested nearly 2,000 drug peddlers. Security forces including the Assam Rifles and the Border Security Force, have seized huge quantities of drugs in Manipur and Mizoram bordering Myanmar. The Assam and Tripura governments had launched a campaign against narcotics to make the states drugs-free. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the drugs smuggled into India originated from Pakistan and from across the border along the north-eastern states, specially Myanmar.
To spread awareness among the people against the drug menace, the seized drugs worth Rs 170 crore were destroyed publicly recently in Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Hojai and Nagaon districts of Assam. The seized narcotics included methamphetamine tablets and foreign origin cigarettes. The methamphetamine tablets, also commonly known as 'Yaba' or 'party tablets' or 'WY' (World is Yours), is a synthetic drug misused as a high-dosage drug by the people, specially the youth in Bangladesh and neighbouring countries besides India.
Officials said the drugs, specially the highly addictive methamphetamine contain a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine and various other contraband as well as arms and ammunition were often smuggled from Myanmar