PRESS RELEASE

UNODC launches a new policy brief  entitled " HIV prevention, treatment and care in prisons and other closed settings: a comprehensive package of interventions"

Washington . 25 July 2012. HIV represents a significant challenge for 30 million people worldwide living in prisons every year. The prevalence of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis in prison populations is high, two to ten times higher than the general population.

Risks affect prisoners, those working in prisons, their families and the wider community. For those in prisons, accessing evidence-based HIV, sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis services is crucial to live healthy lives. The provision, worldwide, is however scarce at best.

At the 2012 AIDS Conference taking place in Washington DC, UNODC will today launch a policy brief that is anchored around two guiding principles, namely that "prison health is good public health" and that a human rights-based approach and the principle of equivalence of health in prisons are key.

The brief, developed in consultation with renowned international experts,  will be launched at a satellite session organised by UNODC. The session entitled "Turning the Tide: Not Without Prison" will showcase some of the interventions in context, while experiences of prison interventions from Latin America, Africa and Europe will be presented.

The joint policy 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: (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.

Recognising that the  fifteen interventions proposed can not be implemented in isolation, the authors propose an approach that is comprehensive and that takes into consideration the other factors of the response. In addition to the specific interventions recommended, good-practice recommendations support the implementation further. The absence of such conditions renders the implementation of the interventions all the more difficult and could play a role on their effectiveness. The brief advises implementers to:

  • Ensure that prison settings are included in national HIV, tuberculosis and drug  dependence treatment programming
  • Adequately fund and reform health care in closed settings
  • Ensure the availability of gender-responsive Interventions
  • Address stigma and the needs of particularly vulnerable people
  • Undertake broader prison and criminal justice reforms.  These can include the improvement of overall conditions, the reduction of the excessive use of pretrial detention, the reduction of incarceration of people who use drugs or people with mental-health problems.

Finally, recognising that one-size does not fit all, UNODC recommends coordination at national level and greater involvement of all national stakeholders to identify the challenges, map the needs and implement the intervention in a cohesive, coordinated and tailored manner.

For further information please contact:

(In Washington)

Dr. Fabienne Hariga , Senior HIV Advisor, UNODC, +43 699 1459 4292, Email: fabienne.hariga[at]unodc.org

Ms. Sylvie Bertrand, HIV Expert, UNODC, +43 699 1459 4347, Email: sylvie.bertrand[at]unodc.org

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