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Separating Prisoners with AIDS a Good Start
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It is good news that the government is planning to separate prisoners diagnosed with HIV/AIDS so that they can receive better care. This is apart from the free medication the country provides for all citizens testing positive for HIV/AIDS.

The plan being jointly drafted by the ministries of public security, health and justice sends a message that consideration of human rights has been integrated into the custody of prisoners.

A special program has already been put into practice in five prisons for special care of prisoners with HIV/AIDS, and it will be introduced to all prisons nationwide.

It is indeed a problem for police and prison personnel to take care of sentenced prisoners or suspects who are confirmed as being infected with the virus.

On the one hand, the psychology of these prisoners or suspects may be abnormal. Some of them scratch police officers or even try to stab them with needles in their attempt to use the disease as a weapon to dodge punishment.

On the other hand, police officers and prison guards lack special training in both knowledge and skills in handling people with HIV/AIDS, who are both prisoners and patients. It is impossible to treat them only as prisoners or only as patients.

Some police departments choose to release them. But there is a great danger when they are at large because they may commit more crimes, thinking that as HIV/AIDS patients they will never be jailed. Equally serious, some may spread the virus to others.

There are instances of HIV/AIDS patients intentionally spreading the virus to others. There are also thieves, who, reportedly, intentionally contract the virus with the assumption that as HIV/AIDS patients, they will never be jailed no matter how illegal their activities are.

Putting such prisoners in separate wards and giving them special care serves both justice and ethical treatment of prisoners as patients.

We face another challenge in spreading knowledge about AIDS prevention and the importance of using condoms to those working in recreational venues. Some worry that we may encourage the illegal sex business by doing so, but leaving sex workers vulnerable to the virus is against ethical principles.

Fortunately, a growing number of localities understand the importance of education in AIDS prevention for those most at risk.

(China Daily April 5, 2007)

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