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China Daily Website

HIV-positive inmates get help

Updated: 2012-12-01 07:58
By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei in Changzhou, Jiangsu ( China Daily)

The second cellblock of the Changzhou prison seems mysterious to many people. Currently 60 male prisoners diagnosed with AIDS or infected with HIV are serving their sentences there.

Since 2007, 183 prisoners have been sent to the special prison, which is in Liyang of Changzhou in Jiangsu province.

Unlike other prisons, some of the rooms in the second cellblock have walls made of soft material to help keep the prisoners from bleeding, thus reducing the risk of HIV infection.

The cellblock is also equipped with three surgical wards where medicine to treat the disease is provided to the prisoners. All the prisoners have their blood tested every six months.

Magnolias are widely grown inside the high walls of the prison as decorations. Each prisoner is responsible for taking care of a green plant in the cell. In the cell, the quilts and sheets are blue, and a big smile is painted on the cotton mantle that covers the electric fan in the middle of the ceiling.

The prisoners can learn Chinese characters, their phonetic information and other knowledge in a room designed for their study. They also have rooms to read magazines and consult psychiatrists.

"Many prisoners with AIDS tried to hurt themselves or commit suicide when they first came here," said Wang Haohua, deputy warden of the cellblock. "To show respect to the prisoners, the police usually wear no gloves or protective clothing while spending time with them."

A prisoner who asked to be called Ma said: "I gradually become peaceful here, and my health doesn't deteriorate."

Ma became infected with HIV through drug use. In 2010, he was sentenced to five years and three months behind bars for rape.

Ma said every day he gets up at 7 am, and then exercises before having breakfast at 8 am. After cleaning his cell, he reads some books or studies at 8:30, and then makes paper boxes for two hours in the morning.

He needs to make boxes for another two hours in the afternoon, and watches TV or participates in activities organized by the cellblock after 5:30 pm. He goes to bed when the lights are turned off at 10:30 pm.

Wu Kai, warden of the Changzhou prison, said that the prison is trying its best to help the prisoners in both disease treatment and mental health.

"For those special prisoners, indifference or contempt from other people is more terrible than the disease itself," Wu said. "So besides providing free medicine and regular treatment for them, we focus more on their psychological health and try to let them feel our friendliness and care."

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