Chandigarh: India has nearly 21 lakh HIV positive patients in the country and about seven lakh of them are not even aware of their HIV positive status, a senior Union Health Ministry officer said here on Saturday. Additional Secretary, Health cum Director General NACO (National Aids Control Organisation) Navreet Singh Kang said that there was an immediate need to identify the HIV positive patients and start their treatment. Kang was here to attend a function to launch 'HIV prevention, treatment and care programme for Punjab prisons' on Saturday. "There are nearly 21 lakh HIV positive patients in the country and about seven lakh of them are not even aware of their HIV positive status," Kang said. He said that the treatment and care for those living with HIV/AIDS inside prisons should be equivalent to the treatment and care available for the general population. Kang said that the 'National Prison HIV Strategy' is being implemented in a phased manner in the country. "Earlier in the Phase-1, 'HIV interventions in prison settings' project was launched in February this year in eight northeastern states and is now being launched for Punjab and Chandigarh prisons. A key aspect of the program is to ensure post release referrals and linkages for various HIV prevention and treatment services," he said. Punjab's Principal Secretary Health, Vini Mahajan said that the state's Health Department was committed to support the Prisons Department to provide adequate medical care to people lodged in Jail inmates. Mahajan said that the HIV Intervention Programme for Prisons had been launched by NACO for eight Central Jails in Punjab. Principal Secretary-Home (Prisons) Sanjay Kumar said that more than half of the inmates living in prisons in Punjab are undertrial prisoners and they are expected to return to the community. "Hence, initiating HIV interventions in prisons will help to halt and reverse the HIV trend in the state," he said.