HIV-related deaths are on the rise at the Arthur Road facility
A rising number of deaths at Arthur Road jail, the latest being the Gateway killer, raises questions about prisoners’ healthcareThe death of Uzer Patel, the Gateway killer who was an undertrial at the Arthur Road jail, has triggered a debate on the plight of inmates in the prison. Patel, 27, who was arrested on August 13, 2005 after he attacked and killed a young woman and seriously injured her friend, was found to be HIV positive on the very day he was brought to the jail. Sources said at least 50 undertrials, mainly infected with HIV+, have similarly died at Arthur Road jail or JJ Hospital over the last two years.
Patients and their relatives allege that the frequent deaths are a result of jail authorities’ indifference to the medical needs of prisoners. In an environment where infections spread easily, given the conditions in which inmates are housed, not enough attention is apparently paid to the need for regular check-ups and medication. In Patel’s case, though the post-mortem report is not in, he was diagnosed as suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, considered the most infectious form of the disease.
Patients like Patel are required to visit JJ Hospital regularly for checkups or to receive medication. Jail authorities claim the visits are arranged as and when needed, but several of the prisoners and their families allege that HIV patients do not get the treatment they need. “They don’t send inmates to JJ hospital regularly because of shortage of manpower and the patient suffers as a result,’’ said the relative of an undertrial.
Deputy inspector general, prisons, (south region), S P Yadav refuted the charge saying the jail was providing Anti-Retro Viral (ART) treatment for all AIDS patients. “There are around 20 inmates who are HIV positive. They are being treated as per the medical prescription,’’ Yadav said.
However, sources within the jail said there are over 30 inmates suffering from HIV whose health is deteriorating. To top it all, Arthur Road jail has a two-storey hospital without facilities such as an X-ray machine or ECG to examine a patient in an emergency. Even the medicine stock is limited to first-aid material and drugs used to treat minor ailments. For any major illness, the prison is entirely dependent on JJ hospital or relatives of prisoners for medicines.
DIG Yadav said the charges were unfounded considering many inmates who died in the jail or hospital did not belong to this jail. “Undertrials from all jails in Maharashtra are brought to J J Hospital for better treatment and they are kept in our jails.,’’ Yadav said.
The Times of India, August 31, 2006