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HIV and AIDS in Prisons

The work of UNODC in the area of HIV and AIDS focuses mainly on moving towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people who use drugs and for people living and working in prisons and other closed settings. In many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as globally, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prisons exceeds the prevalence in the community and, in this context, UNODC aims to assist countries in ensuring that the treatment available for HIV/AIDS in prisons does not fall below the standards of the treatment offered in the community.

UNODC also promotes the integration of effective HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services to work related human trafficking. In collaboration with UNAIDS, as well others co-sponsors, UNODC has elaborated various diagnostic investigations on the HIV /AIDS situation in penitentiary systems in 14 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Nicaragua and Uruguay).  In addition a comparative study on the HIV situation in penitentiary centres was also carried out. In phase two, UNODC promoted the realization of National Consultations in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru, in which government officials, NGOs and international organisms debated the recommendations made as a result of the diagnostics for their respective States so as to facilitate the elaboration of a Penitentiary Policy that included the right to health specifically in terms of HIV.

A regional comparative study on the situation of HIV in prisons in the countries studied, as well as diagnoses of the HIV situation in prisons in two Caribbean countries is set to be published in the near future.

Further to the diagnoses of the HIV situation in prisons and various national consultations, other activities have been developed for the elaboration of programmes in 15 countries in Latin America. Such programmes include a study on Sexual diversity, Human Rights and HIV in the prison system of Costa Rica; research on the prevalence of HIV / AIDS; Behaviours, Attitudes and Practices and the management of health in prisons for both the detainees and personnel in prisons in Honduras and Panama; and the development and implementation of national policies on penitentiary health which took place in Ecuador.

With a view of promoting the process of institutionalization of HIV in prisons in countries of Latin America, a Regional Consultation on HIV / Prisons was developed in Brazil in 2008. The outcomes of the consultation include important recommendations for the States; the creation of sub-regional networks in Central America and the Andean Pact; the establishment of the United Nations Committee on HIV / Prisons (UNICEF, UNAIDS, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank); as well as the fostering regional Committee of civil society on HIV / national Prisons and horizontal tables for addressing the issue.

The collaboration between UNODC and UNAIDS in the region, has also led to the development of The Observatory for HIV and Prisons in Latin America and the Caribbean which now incorporates the issues of drug abuse and human trafficking. The Observatory serves as the region's permanent body of research and analysis on the aforementioned areas and focuses specifically on compiling and disseminating existing information on the subject, while encouraging and channelling ongoing research towards arriving at effective and efficient responses to the problem of HIV and AIDS in the targeted populations mentioned above.

UNODC has also collaborated to provide vital assistance in the elaboration of sub-regional strategies for Central America and the Caribbean which have been agreed to by the Ministries of Justice, Health, and civil society and, furthermore, assists Member States in reviewing national policies, strategies and legislation and in supporting their adaptation, providing comprehensive HIV services, and strengthening monitoring and evaluation. All activities supported by UNODC are geared towards strengthening national ownership and building national capacity. It is expected that, by the end of the programme cycle, HIV services for persons deprived of liberty and drug abusers will become integral components of national health agendas, including prison health, and social services.

The technical assistance provided is based on the relevant declarations, resolutions and decisions adopted by United Nations governing bodies, such as the United Nations General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.