International Conference "Equivalent HIV Prevention and Care in Prison Settings: from Policy to Practice"

(posted 14/06/2010)


From 1 to 2 June 2010, UNODC organized international conference "Equivalent HIV Prevention and Care in Prison Settings: from Policy to Practice".  The conference took place in Riga and it was attended by more than 100 participants representing ministries, prisons, police and non-governmental organizations from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other European countries. The main objective of the conference was to exchange experience in providing evidence-based and cost-effective HIV prevention in prison settings.

The first day of the conference was devoted to HIV education in prisons. Within the on-going UNODC project "HIV prevention and care among injecting drug users and in prison settings in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania" new education programmes and materials have been developed. In addition to information about HIV, hepatitis and other infections, drug using prisoners are also educated about overdose prevention and safe injecting practices. Programmes are delivered either by prison staff or NGOs using inter-active teaching methods. Representatives from the prisons in Latvia and Lithuania shared their experience in using the manual "Risk Reduction for Drug Users in Prison". Šķirotava Prison from Latvia demonstrated a video film showing that new education programmes are positively evaluated by prisoners. Latvian Association for Family Planning and Reproductive Health "Papardes Zieds" provided an overview of the process and key success factors for introduction of harm reduction education in Latvian prisons. Expert from Trimbos Institute, the Netherlands, presented the concept and advantages of peer education and specifics of its implementation in prison settings.

The second day of the conference focused on continuation of methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) in police arrest houses and in prisons. Participants learned about provision of MMT and its impact in Catalonian prisons where this treatment method is available since 1992. Introduction of MMT has significantly reduced prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C, illicit drug use and violence in prisons as well as overdose risks after release. Representative from Romanian National Administration of Penitentiaries presented lessons learned from introduction of harm reduction services in prisons. With UNODC support needle and syringe programmes have been introduced in 2 prison units and methadone maintenance therapy has been introduced in 5 prison units in Romania. Since 2009, MMT is also available in some Estonian prisons. The conference participants learned about a comprehensive drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation programme in Tartu prison as well as support to drug dependent and HIV-positive prisoners provided by NGO Convictus.

Geoff Monaghan from UNODC office in Moscow informed about drug referral schemes as an effective approach in putting drug using arrestees in contact with drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services. Meanwhile, the colleagues from Estonian and Lithuanian Ministries of Interior presented the recent positive developments regarding continuation of MMT in police custody centres.

All conference participants received the publication "HIV and AIDS in places of detention: UNODC/WHO/UNAIDS toolkit for policymakers and prison officers" ( english, latvian, lithuanian). In addition to English and Russian, the toolkit is now available also in Latvian and Lithuanian.


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