1 June 2018 - Vienna, Austria - The 27th session of the Commission of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice took place in Vienna from 14 - 18 May 2018. The UNODC HIV/AIDS section co-organized two informative side events to provide a space for inspired discussions on the current situation of, and response to HIV among people in prisons:
' Women and HIV in Prison', co-organized by the Governments of Norway and Sweden and Penal Reform International, aimed to increase awareness of the challenges related to women in prisons and shed light on the continuous progress made in this field.
Women in prison are vulnerable for many reasons. They often come from socially marginalized groups, engage in sex work and/or drug use and experience violence and discrimination, often of a sexual nature. In prison, the prevalence of HIV is much higher in women than in men; however, women's psychological, social and health care needs remain mostly under recognized and thus poorly addressed.
Moderator Dr. Monica Beg, Chief, HIV/AIDS Section and Global Coordinator HIV/AIDS UNODC emphasized the need for unceasing action to address HIV prevention and care among women in prisons, including prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV (PMTCT). The panellists, H.E. Ms. Helen Maria Eduards, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Vienna, Ms. Anne-Li Ferguson, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Justice in Norway and Ms. Olivia Rope from Penal Reform International, stressed the importance of continuous interventions for women in prisons. To secure women's health as well as that of their children, women in prisons require improved access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services. These services should be equivalent to those in the community, continuous and be consistent with international standards including the Nelson Mandela and Bangkok Rules.
During the event, a short video on HIV and Women in Prison presented many of the barriers in addressing HIV among incarcerated women. Mr. Phoka Scout, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Head of Health Services within the Lesotho Correctional Service confirmed that their biggest challenge is the extremely high HIV rate (69%) among women in prisons.
' Mental Health in Prison' co-organized by the UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, the UNODC Justice Section and Penal Reform International, highlighted the importance of promoting mental health care in prison settings. The panel emphasized the impact of deprivation of liberty on individuals. The prevalence of people with mental illness is disproportionately high in prisons. This is due to several factors, including widespread misconceptions of mental health; intolerance of many societies towards mental illness; failure to promote treatment, care and rehabilitation; and, above all, the lack of or limited availability of mental health services in many countries.
Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of the UNODC Drug Prevention and Health Branch outlined the psychological and psychiatric vulnerabilities of people living with HIV in prison and the relationship between physical and mental health. He also pointed out that people living with HIV often suffer from mental ill health due to social exclusion associated with stigma and discrimination.
Leaving No One Behind, on the fast track to end HIV/AIDS among people in prisons