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Monitoring Centre on HIV, Prisons, Drugs and Human Trafficking

The Observatory on HIV, Prisons, Drugs and Human Trafficking has been created by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with UNAIDS, in the context of the global commitment to combat HIV / AIDS and in an effort to strengthen the capacities of the Latin American and Caribbean States, by providing visitors with extensive information on the countries of the region so as to facilitate the analysis, discussion and development of multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral strategies.

It is UNODC's hope that this initiative contributes to the structuring of national responses grounded in human rights and aimed at achieving Universal Access to Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support for HIV in groups faced with conditions of extreme vulnerability such as persons deprived of liberty, drug users and victims of human trafficking.    


Given the problematic issue of HIV / AIDS in the region, particularly in prisons, the Office of the Special Adviser of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was established in January 2007 in the city of San José, Costa Rica, with a mandate to address the issue of HIV / AIDS in prisons. Amongst the projects initially developed by this office, is the creation of the Observatory for HIV and Prisons in Latin America and the Caribbean that collects information on HIV and prison systems in the region, responding to international provisions on the subject, such as: the Declaration of Commitment of United Nations to the fight against HIV / AIDS, 2011; the Declaration of San Salvador, 2005; the Bangkok Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners; among others.

The Observatory for HIV and Prisons in Latin America and the Caribbean is an interdisciplinary and intersectorial tool for research, analysis, and preparation of proposals and sharing of information related to HIV and AIDS within the prison systems of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently, the Centre's database stores approximately 1000 documents of legislation, case law, best practices, research, monitoring reports, etc. from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This allows for informed reflection on the problems in these areas and provides the technical basis for dialogue to facilitate the promotion of international standards and internal policies to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for persons deprived of liberty and infected with HIV, drug users and victims of human trafficking.

The principles that guide the observatory are:

  • Transparency, objectivity and balance in dealing with the issues and the management of information;
  • Compliance with national and international instruments;
  • Respect for the legal system, competition and action framework of public institutions responsible for the matter;
  • An interdisciplinary perspective, which is reflected in the working components: human rights, health, gender, prison health management, public policy, etc;
  • Inter-agency cooperation, facilitated through the participation of the UN agencies with varying but related mandates in the development of the observatory. These agencies include: UNDP, UNESCO, WHO, UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA, ILO, World Bank, UNODC, UNHCR, linked by the issue of HIV to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS). 


Globally, the HIV infection rate tends to be much higher within prison settings, thus aggravating the situation with the infection levels of other diseases such as Tuberculosis and Hepatitis.
Given the concern caused by this problem, government representatives from the health and prison management sectors, as well as civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, international agencies and representatives of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS), came together in Sao Paolo, Brazil in May 2008, to establish the foundation for defining common comprehensive prison policies in each country that address the prevention of HIV, as well as the attention to and treatment of AIDS, through national and international consensus. This activity facilitated the exchange of experiences and the development of common agendas beyond the health and prison systems, constituting a general agenda of human rights.

The general recommendations of this regional consultation include "the development and strengthening of the information system, specifically with regards to HIV / AIDS to facilitate its use as a tool for planning, management and monitoring and evaluation of the control actions for HIV / AIDS in correctional systems, respecting confidentiality and ethical principles". Furthermore, these recommendations call for "the strengthening of civil society in its role of citizen oversight and advocacy for the implementation of sectoral public policies that address the control of the epidemic in the prison environment and improve the network's working mechanisms".

Based on these recommendations and on the expressed need for organizations such as the Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group (GCTH according to its acronym in Spanish), the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM), and UNAIDS Regional Directors Group (UCRG), arises the initiative to create an instrument that brings together specialized information on HIV / AIDS and prisons, which can foster inter-institutional relations, universal access and human rights of detainees with HIV / AIDS.

Since the year 2013, in response to the mandate of UNODC and the successful results obtained by the Centre to boost HIV care in prisons, the collection and facilitation of information on the status of HIV in drug users and victims of Crime of Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean has been initiated, resulting in the renaming of the instrument to "Observatory for HIV, Prisons and Human Trafficking".


To become a national and international reference on issues related to universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV in populations in extremely vulnerable circumstances such as detainees, drug users and victims of Human Trafficking.


  • To provide the necessary information to enable the strengthening of regional and national public policies on health, specifically HIV / AIDS and focusing on those regional populations identified by the Observatory;
  • To strengthen the institutional capacity to improve health conditions and human rights of these populations;
  • To provide decision-makers with information from a human rights perspective and  contribute to fulfilling institutional obligations relating to HIV / AIDS;
  • To establish opportunities for reflection, designed to achieve due respect for the human rights of detainees, drug users or victims of human trafficking infected with HIV / AIDS.
  • To form networks of exchange of information on these issues.
  • To generate proposals and recommendations on the living conditions of these populations with particular focus on the universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support of HIV / AIDS.
  • To promote the training of public officials by implementing a virtual training center, initially on HIV issues and prisons.
  • To promote the conduct of research and programme implementation in the region aimed at ensuring universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support to HIV.


The Observatory has been designed as an instrument that facilitates access to information, thus becoming an engine for research and ensuring equal opportunities to take advantage of the knowledge and services offered and promoting harmonious inter-relationships that achieve the effective enjoyment of human rights and universal access to HIV-related services for persons deprived of liberty, drug users and victims of trafficking.


The following components make up the Observatory:


Component I. Research, Information and Dissemination

As a permanent body of research, generation of information and analysis of information available in the various national and international sources, the Observatory has two objectives: a) to compile and disseminate information, and b) to promote research in the key areas of  the Observatory's work so as to structure effective national responses.

This component is designed in the following manner:

Networks: Formation of networks of for the exchange and provision of information on HIV / AIDS.

Legislation: The observatory facilitates the different legal instruments to the persons infected with HIV/AIDS that form part of the aforementioned populations through the website, allowing them to be accessed quickly and easily. International arrangements relating to HIV / AIDS, as well as the treatment of detainees, drug users and victims of trafficking are available on the site and the relevant national laws of Member States in these matters can be found.

Case law: Jurisprudential advances that incorporate human rights and the issue of HIV regarding detainees, drug users and victims of trafficking, are collected.

  Publications: Availability of an extensive library of resources equipped with information on:

  • Universal access and prison management
  • Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice
  • Legal and institutional policy
  • Social reintegration
  • Human rights
  • Genre

Monitoring: The submission of reports by regional States, the Ministries of Justice and Health; UNGASS reports; as well as reports submitted by UN rapporteurs that include the issue of HIV / AIDS in relation to the populations under research in this Observatory. Similarly the submission of reports from civil society and national human rights institutions (Ombudsman Office).

Best Practices: Efforts to achieve effective enjoyment of human rights of the populations of detainees, drug users and victims of trafficking, health-related and especially HIV, which can be replicated in the region .


Component II. Training and technical strengthening

In seeking to facilitate the use of resources and services by users of the Observatory, a system that allows access to guidance and training, including international standards for prevention and care of HIV / AIDS will be presented. This will include:

Reference Directories containing contact information for NGOs and institutions working in prevention, treatment, care and support of HIV / AIDS with a focus on the target populations of the Observatory.

Online consultations: allow for guidance on those issues targeted by the observatory and make references to those organizations or individuals who provide further information or guidance.

Training: leverage all the work in this area has made UNAIDS and other agencies of the United Nations, to suit the system platform and create a virtual training center for HIV / AIDS.


Component III. Institutional Strengthening

The Observatory fosters the promotion of inter-institutional relations and strategic alliances in the public sphere, in order to promote and strengthen the implementation of coordinated efforts by public institutions and NGOs, for universal access to HIV-related services and the effective respect for the human rights of the populations targeted by the Observatory.