LAHORE: The screening process of thousands of new inmates of 39 jails in Punjab to check HIV infection (and treatment if required) hits a snag as the Inspector General of Prisons and the Aids Control Programme head disagree on ‘short expiry of the kits’.

IG Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig refused screening of the inmates on the HIV Rapid Test Kits provided by the Punjab Aids Control Programme. He returned the kits twice on the plea that these had short expiry. He wrote to the Programme Director to provide them kits having at least one-year expiry period otherwise his department would not take any risk.

On the other hand, PACP Director Dr Munir Ahmad Malik in his official correspondence insisted him to use the kits claiming that there was no scientific reason to refuse these.

Prisons IG and programme head differ on expiry of kits

An official said the correspondence started between the two officers in August this year. Unfortunately, he said, it’s going on as the director sent many reminders to the IG prisons insisting him to accept the kits.

The official said both sides had reached an agreement in June 2019 to initiate screening of prisoners in 39 jails of Punjab. The official letter written by the programme director suggested that the IG Prisons should use the kits till November and return the surplus (kits) by the end of the month, three months before the expiry date (Feb 2020).

“The critical/alarming time starts three months before expiry date (Feb 2020),” claimed Dr Malik in his letter addressed to the IG prisons. He further wrote that the programme had dispatched 126,000 test kits to the prisons department in July but the IG refused to receive these.

“A second attempt was made on Aug 6 and that time 50,000 HIV rapid test kits were delivered to the IG,” reads the letter. The prisons department returned the same for having short expiry, the letter stated.

The director in another letter requested the IG to review his decision and start screening process of the inmates.

“We had demanded kits from the primary and secondary healthcare department to start screening process of new inmates from our department’s trained staff with a prime purpose of providing a safe and healthy environment to the prisoners”, Mr Baig told Dawn. He said according to the agreement, the PACP was to provide test kits having at least one-year expiry period which was not met so far despite repeated requests sent to the health authorities.

“We are not going to take any risk of consuming the kits having a short expiry date and have conveyed our stance that the department would not compromise on the issue,” said the IG.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019