A prison in Shanghai’s Qingpu District has taken some drastic measures to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS inside its institution.
On Monday, authorities decided to start housing prisoners with HIV/AIDS in a separate ward in the wake of a growing number of inmates contracting the virus, the Global Times reports. The new ward is capable of housing up to 220 prisoners suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Inside the ward, 10 officials have been assigned to attend to patients’ medical needs. Additionally, preventative measures have been taken to ensure inmate’s safety, such as swapping any furniture made from metal to plastic, in order to prevent prisoners from accidentally scratching themselves, reports Sixth Tone. The ward is also monitored 24/7 by security cameras in order to prevent any sexual activity that could transmit the disease.
In China, there has been an ongoing debate over whether separately housing inmates with HIV/AIDS perpetuates discrimination or whether it is a necessary measure.
Liu Tongjiang, the prison spokesman, told Sixth Tone that officials feel strongly that the change will be beneficial to inmates and help them receive better medical treatment. “[The new ward] will let criminals feel cared for and respected,” he added.
Although patients are receiving special attention for their medical needs, studies have shown that such segregation can in fact have adverse effects on patients and lead to discriminatory behavior. Back in 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) called the segregation of HIV-positive prisoners “counterproductive.” China’s only school just for kids with HIV/AIDS, located in Linfen, Shanxi province, has faced similar criticism in the past.
The spread of HIV is increasingly becoming an issue in China’s prisons. Shanghai New Criminal’s Prison alone has housed 400 HIV-positive prisoners since 2005, reports Shanghai Daily. During that time, the prisoners have been living among the rest of the inmate population, but a growing number of HIV infections has prompted the prison to take action.
Of course, HIV/AIDS isn’t just a growing problem in Chinese prisons. A government study last year found that 575,000 people in China are currently living with HIV or AIDS. A rising and alarming percentage of that number is urban youth with most of the new cases involving men having sex with other men. Before 2009, most HIV infections in China were not transmitted by sex, but rather through drug use, blood transfusions and a mysterious “unknown” factor that got as high as 17.5%. In fact, from 1985 to 2005, around 30% of China’s HIV infections were caused by the country’s shady blood trade.
But China has done an admirable job cracking down on the illegal blood trade and drug use. This year, China has even begun offering free antiviral therapy for all of its citizens living with HIV/AIDS.
By Robin Winship
[Image via Shanghai Daily]