UNODC HIV Section identifies 35 high priority countries for HIV in prisons

25 July 2019, Islamabad- In 2019, UNODC's HIV Section has identified 35 high priority countries for HIV in prisons. Pakistan is among them. In this context UNODC is working to protect people who use and inject drugs from being infected with HIV, in ensuring access to comprehensive HIV services for people in prisons, and in assisting the global effort to reach Target 3.3 (ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030) of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3. This is to support Target 6 of the U NAIDS Strategy (2016-2021) on Fast-Track to End AIDS which states that '90% of the key populations including prisoners have access to HIV combination prevention services'. Thus UNODC Pakistan, in collaboration with government stakeholders, civil society organizations, and UN partner  organizations, drafted the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for HIV testing and counselling  services, and for monitoring and evaluation tools for HIV services, in prisons. The purpose of these tools is to ensure that health services for HIV and other infections in prisons are routinely monitored, tools unified, and data integrated in the public health system. UNODC Pakistan has in addition provided capacity building training workshops to healthcare staff from prisons and ART centres on HIV testing and counselling services in prisons.

To support the national response towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, by upscaling harm reduction interventions in prisons, and ensuring continuity of HIV services for prisoners in prison  and post release, Dr. Ehab Salah, Advisor on HIV/AIDS in Prisons, UNODC HQ Vienna, visited Pakistan from 8 to 11 July 2019. During his mission he visited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh provinces, and met with a number of government stakeholders, civil society organizations, and UN partner organizations including: Inspectors General for prisons; managers of National and Provincial AIDS control programmes; judges from Judicial Academies in both provinces; managers of Global Fund grants in Pakistan, officials from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination, Islamabad; and civil society organizations providing harm reduction services to drug users.

The mission concluded with the findings that: 1) There is limited access to HIV services in prisons. 2) HIV testing services in prisons are not always in line with international standards and guidelines (voluntary, informed consent; confidentiality of pre-test information and post-test counselling). 3) Isolation of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in prison is a widespread practice; and 4) ARVs for PLWHA and TB screening on admission to prisons are not always available.