Turning the tide: not without prisons!
27 July 2012 - On the margins of the Washington XIX International AIDS Conference, UNODC held a session entitled "Turning the Tide: Not Without Prisons", to underline the urgency of developing national AIDS responses that include people in prisons.
During the session, UNODC launched a joint policy brief entitled "HIV prevention, treatment and care in prisons and other closed settings: a comprehensive package of interventions". The brief by UNODC, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Development Programme proposes a comprehensive package of 15 interventions to address HIV in prisons settings.
The 15 interventions are: (1) Information, education and communication, (2) HIV testing and counselling, (3) Treatment, care and support, (4) Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, (5) Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, (6) Condom programmes, (7) Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, (8) Prevention of sexual violence, (9) Drug dependence treatment, (10) Needle and syringe programmes, (11) Vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis, (12) Post-exposure prophylaxis, (13) Prevention of transmission through medical or dental services, (14) Prevention of transmission through tattooing, piercing and other forms of skin penetration. and (15) Protecting staff from occupational hazards.
Some of the interventions were showcased in context, while experiences of prison interventions from Africa, Europe and Latin America were presented.
In his introductory remarks, Mr. Christian Kroll, UNODC Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, provided a global overview of HIV in prisons and pointed out that the vulnerability of HIV in prisons has multi-factorial causes that requires multidisciplinary responses, involving prison management, human rights, criminal justice, occupational health, public health and gender policies sectors.
The Deputy Commissioner for Kenya Prisons Service, Ms. Mary C. Chepkonga made a presentation on a recent survey conducted in Kenyan prisons which showed that HIV prevalence among prisoners exceeded the national average and that risky sexual practices, drug use among prisoners and gaps in prison health services were real challenges to HIV prevention and care. The Deputy Commissioner emphasized the importance of basing prison policy, legislation and programmes on empirical evidence.
Dr. Prof. Heino Stöver from the Faculty of Health and Social Work at the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt provided a detailed overview of two interventions included in the package, namely drug dependence treatment and needle and syringe programme in prisons, both designed to provide services to people who use drugs.
From Brazil, Dr. Rodrigo Zilli Haanwinckel of the Department of STD, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis at the Ministry of Health presented the Brazilian experience in implementing prevention of mother-to-child transmission in prisons and maintaining low transmission rates. He highlighted the challenges associated with the provision of such services in prisons, compared to strategies put in place for the general population.
Ms. Alice Ouedraogo, Director of the International Labour Organization Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work, emphasised that a safe and healthy prison work environment is critical in protecting the rights and health of both prison staff and prisoners. This started with the involvement and protection of the occupational safety and health of prison personnel who played a key role in promoting HIV and tuberculosis prevention among the prison population.