HIV deaths in Bali prison increased last year

Ni Komang ErvianiTHE JAKARTA POST ,  DENPASAR   |  Fri, 01/16/2009 4:45 PM  |  The Archipelago

The number of HIV-related deaths in Kerobokan State Penitentiary in Denpasar went up again last year.

As many as six inmates died of AIDS last year, up from five deaths in 2007 and three in 2006, a report from the prison HIV/AIDS task force revealed Thursday.

Agung Gde Hartawan, head of the task force said that most of the deaths occurred because the inmates were already sick when they went into prison. “We usually give them some level of health treatment inside the prison, but it’s more often that they came in with extremely deteriorated health conditions,” he said.

He added that the high mobility rate of inmates in Kerobokan impeded his task force’s ability to care for HIV-positive inmates.

“People go in and out of prison so fast, it’s really hard for us to decide on a good treatment,” he said.

The HIV/AIDS task force, which was established in 2002 as part of the Kerobokan prison’s effort to minimize the spread of HIV in the facility, is tasked with supplying prisoners with Antiretro Viral (ARV) drugs, providing HIV tests and educating prisoners on how to prevent HIV infections.

Despite the number of deaths, Agung said the efforts of the task force have shown good results in terms of preventing further infections

“This is as good as it gets. The prisoners are becoming more open to us and an increasing number of them are more willing to undergo test for HIV because there’s less stigma about the disease now,” he said.

*Novian, 42, A HIV-positive inmate who was sentenced for a drug related crime, agreed with Agung, saying that the task force had helped prevent further HIV infections in the prison. are still others who are afraid of me when they learn that I am HIV-positive, but after a while they understand that the disease doesn’t infect others that easily,” he said.

Novian, who is originally from Bandung, West Java, said that the access to health care he received from the task force has been very helpful, especially after he began receiving ARV drugs.

“I am so thankful that they have ARV drugs here now,” he said.

Kerobokan had 38 HIV-positive inmates in 2008, 14 of whom were released. In 2007, there were 39 inmates, while in 2006 there were 30 inmates.

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