In close collaboration with Tihar prisons and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), UNODC Regional Office for South Asia (under project RAS/H71- 'Prevention of spread of HIV amongst vulnerable groups in South Asia') launched Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) for injecting drug users in Tihar prisons in Delhi on the 7th November 2008. The Lt. Governor of Delhi, Mr. Tejendra Khanna, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Other distinguished dignitaries inlcuded Mr. G. S Patnaik, Principal Secretary (Home), Government of Delhi; Ms. Purnima Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India; Mr. B. K Gupta, Director General, Tihar Prisons; Dr. Rajat Ray, Chief of National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, AIIMS; Mr. Christian Kroll, Global HIVAIDS Advisor, UNODC Headquarters; Dr. Ajay Kumar Khera, ADG from the National AIDS Control Organisation; Ms. Ashita Mittal, Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge, UNODC ROSA, and members of the UN family. It is noteworthy that Tihar prison is the first prison in South Asia to launch OST for incarcerated drug users.
The chief guest, Mr. Khanna, congratulated the Tihar prison administration, UNODC and AIIMS for their efforts in launching the OST programme and termed it as a definitive step in addressing the problem of drugs and HIV among prison inmates as well as the community. Calling it a pioneering effort, Mr. Khanna extended his full support to this initiative.
On the occasion, Mr. Kroll extended complete support from UN family to the Prison administration in making the Tihar as best practice model. Ms. Ashita Mittal called OST an important milestone for India and South Asia, in preventing the problem of drug abuse and HIV transmission among injecting drug users.
Mr. G. S. Patnaik, Principle Secretary (Home), in his comprehensive speech, spoke about the various initiatives undertaken by UNODC, in particular, about the Iran study tour which provided a platform for stakeholders to share best practices in the region.
Mr. B.K Gupta informed the gathering that there are approxiamtely 707 drug users in Tihar, out of which 44 are injecting drug users. He further shared that 70 % of the drug users keep coming back to the prisons due to drug related crimes. A drug user is identified on the very first day of his/her admission and sent to the Drug Detoxification Centre under the supervision of trained medical staff for treatment. Thereafter, the recovering user is shifted to the drug rehabilitation centres run in different jails in association with NGOs like AAG (AIDS Awareness Group), AASRA (An Association for the Scientific Research on the Addictions) and IVF (India Vision Foundation) etc. The rehabilitation process includes counseling, meditation, life skills education and other therapeutic methods.
Ms. Purnima Singh, during her speech, highlighted the need for vocational training and counseling support to drug users. She also assured the support of MJSE in scaling up the OST initiative. Dr. Rajat Ray further emphasized the need for continued treatment and rehabilitation support to prison inmates for ensuring continuity of services upon their release.
The event ended with a vote of thanks by Dr. Jayadev Sarangi, Prison Expert, UNODC.