More medical care, support for Shanghai inmates with HIV

Inmates at Nanhui Prison in Shanghai making pastries in March 2011.
PHOTO: More medical care, support for Shanghai inmates with HIV

SHANGHAI - Shanghai is upgrading its detention system by providing professional medical care and mental support for suspects with special conditions such as HIV carriers.

The No 3 Detention Center in Shanghai's Qingpu district has been the only one of its kind in the city receiving HIV-positive suspects since May 2010.

"Establishing such a mechanism has greatly eased the burden for other detention centers in the city in dealing with such cases," said Li Lixin, head of the No 3 Detention Center.

The centre has set up a long-term cooperation mechanism with some of the best hospitals in Shanghai to tap their resources for medical treatment and health checks for the inmates round-the-clock, Li said.

A clinic in the centre boasts 13 function rooms and advanced medical equipment capable of X-ray diagnosis, B-mode ultrasonography, blood routine and blood biochemical analysis. The equipment in the laboratory alone costs more than 2 million yuan (S$406,740).

The facilities are used to treat the dozens of HIV-positive suspects currently in custody, and there will be medical support from hospitals, said Yang Shuliang, a section chief with the medical centre.

"When a diagnosis shows a suspect needing treatment, we will ask for his permission and if he agrees, the treatment will begin. Just like for a normal person with HIV, the entire treatment is free," Yang said.

Medical professionals said the procedures remain challenging because they might have to deal with unpredictable behaviour from suspects infected with HIV.

One officer who was dealing with an HIV-infected suspect in 2010 was accidentally exposed to infected material. He was not infected with the virus thanks to timely treatment.

In another case in May, one HIV-positive suspect suffering from inflammation of the blood vessels was in serious condition and even his roommates would not get near him. Officers later had to patiently persuade him to receive treatment.

Physical treatment is never enough for HIV-infected inmates. Ruan Feng, a psychological counselor at the No 3 Detention Center, said they must first "untie the knots" in patients' minds.

"They are often self-abandoned. But everyone is capable of resolving issues, as long as you dig deeper in the mind," said Ruan, who has more than 10 years of experience in psychological counseling.

In addition to sandplay therapy in the counseling room for analysing inmates' mental conditions, there is also a stuffed dummy in the playroom used as a sandbag for them to let off steam.

"I used to watched movies and think all officers in the Chinese mainland would beat the inmates," said an inmate from Hong Kong who is HIV-positive.

"But now I've learned that they treat life more importantly than anything else."