NEW DELHI, Feb. 28 -- A medical committee in India has advocated the distribution of condoms and needles to prisoners to prevent the spread of HIV infection among them, a report said Tuesday. The committee appointed by the Indian Council of Medical Research urged condoms be made a part of each prison's health facilities, The Times of India newspaper said. The recommendations were made following a medical finding which reported 90 percent of the prisoners in India's largest jail indulged in homosexual activities. The medical body's proposals, however, were in direct contrast to what India's top prison official Kiran Bedi has been advocating. Bedi, credited with many innovative schemes to educate and reform prisoners, has been opposing free distribution of condoms in jails, opting instead to promote abstinence. The Indian Council of Medical Research appointed an experts committee when homosexual behavior was found among 90 percent of prisoners in New Delhi's Tihar jail and at least one tested positive for HIV, the Times said. Unprotected sex with an infected partner and sharing of needles by drug users are known to transmit the human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS. The medical council also urged syringes and needles be made available for prisoners in India's northeastern states, which have recently reported a significant surge in drug-related HIV-positive cases. Without resorting to discriminatory segregation of suspects in jails, the committee advised monitoring of prisoners among high-risk group and educating them for voluntary testing. 'Testing will be done only to help diagnose the disease and offer them the right treatment,' a medical official said.
'There will be no forced testing or segregation of inmates.' According to the World Health Organization, the number of HIV infections in India tripled since 1992. The medical officer for WHO's Global Program on AIDS-India, Dr. Lev KhodakevichIf recently said if India did not address the problem soon it could be faced with a staggering 30 to 110 million HIV-infected people in the next seven years. While Indian officials say there are 885 cases of full-blown AIDS in the country and 1.6 million people with HIV, non-government organizations place the figure much higher.