Express News Service

GUWAHATI: The detection of 85 HIV-positive cases in just a month at two Assam jails has sent the authorities into a tizzy.

The cases were reported from the Central Jail and the Special Jail, both in Nagaon, in September. Nagaon is Assam’s one of the worst affected districts in drug addiction.

Dr Atul Pator, Nagaon Joint Director of Health Services, claimed that most of the inmates were HIV positive before being incarcerated.

“A lot of drug addicts have arrived in the jail. The disease in them was detected in recent times,” Pator told this newspaper on Sunday.

The patients are mostly intravenous drug users (people who self-inject drugs). They were arrested by the police under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Jailor Prabin Hazarika said 40 cases were detected at the Central Jail. He denied the inmates had any access to drugs or those found positive were infecting others.

Another senior jail official said the patients were treated by the doctors of Civil Hospital, Nagaon.

“Even after their release, we contact their family members and give them the necessary support and feedback, so the persons can continue with their treatment,” the official said.

The authorities of the Special Jail could not be contacted but it reportedly recorded 45 cases.

The police expressed deep concern over the drug menace. Nagaon Superintendent of Police, Anand Mishra said drugs and illegitimate sexual relations were contributing to infection.

“They go to various places in search of jobs etc and indulge in illegitimate sexual activities and with multiple people. Drug is another reason. After returning home, they spread the disease. This has been going on for many years,” Mishra said.

He said the authorities of the two jails must try to find out if the inmates had access to drugs. He said they should be vigilant.

Mishra said a pharmacist was arrested recently by the police for supplying drugs to the inmates after taking money.

“The number of people outside the jails here will be more than that of the jail inmates. Either there is connivance with jail employees or they are not doing their job properly. I get frustrated that people we arrested are enjoying inside,” the SP added.

Assam’s BJP government under Himanta Biswa Sarma has already launched a war against drugs. Over the past five months or so, drugs worth over Rs 200 crore were seized. A number of smugglers, peddlers and addicts were also arrested.