Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries facilitates regional dialogues on prison health sector reform in West and Central Asia

Since 2000, the global prison population has increased by 24 percent and it is estimated that at any given time more than 10.74 million people are held in prisons and other closed settings, of whom more than a quarter are pretrial detainees. Statistics indicate that people in prison are 7.2 times more likely to be living with HIV than adults in the general population.

On October 27-28, for the first time the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries organized an inter-regional training workshop on” Prison Health Sector Reform and Alternatives to Imprisonment” within the SP-3 framework – Health and Alternative Development- and in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS Section and Justice Section- UNODC headquarters.

During the event, 45 participants from the Regional Programme’s member countries, from Ministries of Justice (supreme court, penitentiary administration), Ministries of Health, Civil society (NGO) participated in this workshop to discuss International Standards for health and human rights for people in prison through the lens of health and justice.

Highlighting the fact that prison health has public health consequences, the first day of the training workshop was conducted by Dr Ehab Salah, UNAIDS Focal Point, Advisor Prisons and HIV and Karima Benamara, UNODC HIV/AIDS Section discussing tools and new developments on reducing inequalities and improving access to HIV services for people in prisons and introducing the comprehensive package of interventions for HIV prevention, testing, treatment care and support in prisons and other closed settings.


« Addressing HIV in prisons cannot be separated from broader questions of criminal justice laws, policies and practices. Increasing the use of alternatives to imprisonment is part of an effective response to HIV and other health issues within prisons and other closed settings. »

Highlighted Dr. Ehab Salah.


The main objective of the second day of the workshop was to discuss Effective use of non-custodial measures to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Moreover, mitigating the disruptive impact of infection prevention and control measures in prisons in the time of COVID 19 was another topic discussed by the panelists Jee Aei Lee, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, UNODC and Christoph Capelle, Associate Expert, UNODC.

Women in Prisons

Achieving universal access to comprehensive HIV services in prison settings is not possible without addressing the specific needs of women in prison. Around 740,000 women are held in prisons worldwide and evidence indicates that, although women represent a minority (6.9 percent) of the prison population, they are generally at a higher risk for HIV than men in prison due to their different socioeconomic profile, particularly the relatively higher representation of people who use drugs and sex workers among women offenders.

This 2-day training workshop provided Regional Programme countries with a platform to exchange experiences and good practices in evidence-based HIV prevention, treatment and care as well as health outcomes of establishing or expanding alternatives to imprisonment.

Prison health reform and alternatives to imprisonment remain a priority in West and Central Asia and therefore, a follow-up meeting will be held in 2022.

Special thanks to the government of Finland for supporting this activity.