Release of the Sinhala Peer Guide by the Mr. D. P. Mendis, Chairman, NDDCB and Major General Vagira Wejegunawadane, Commissioner General of Prisons at Sri Lanka in the presence of Mr.Bandara, Director, NDDCB , Dr.Jayadev Sarangi, Prison Expert and Mr.R.Gunashekar, Project Officer UNODC ROSA.
Prison inmates are an important vulnerable group for risk behaviours including drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. Although no reliable estimates are available for the South Asia region, in most countries drug use is also a well-recognized problem in the prisons. Everywhere in the world, rates of HIV-infection among prison populations are generally much higher than in the general population. Prison overcrowding, lack of access to services, infrastructure etc. significantly increases the inmates vulnerability to HIV transmission.
Project RAS/H71 of UNODC, through government counterparts and NGO partners is advocating a client-centred participatory approach aimed at increasing awareness and preventive behaviours among inmates. As a part of its outreach / capacity building programme strategy, the project has developed a prison toolkit that includes a Module for Prison Intervention: South Asia and a Peer Guide which contains key messages on drugs, HIV and Life skills.
The Peer Guide helps the Outreach Educators and inmate Peer Volunteers (PV) to provide HIV prevention messages for the prison inmates. The respective government counterparts and NGOs have jointly adapted the same in their local languages for the capacity building and rolling out of interventions by the prisoner PV and field level prison staffs. In order to enable a wider impact, the Peer Guide has been translated into different languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Nepalese, Sinhalese and Divehi. Currently, the Sinhalese version of the peer guide is used in
14 prison sites across Sri Lanka.
The objective of the project is to initiate behaviour change and empower prisoners to engage in positive health behaviours with regard to drugs and HIV during incarceration and after release. So far the project has reached out to more than 26,000 prisoners/ prison officials through 26 prison interventions in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. These interventions have paved the way for introducing various components of the comprehensive package of services in the countries of the region.