Sri Lanka: Promoting voluntary HIV counselling and testing in prisons

On September 26, in Sri Lanka, prison authorities together with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime launched a behaviour change communication (BCC) toolkit aimed at carrying out focused HIV prevention activities in prisons across the country.

A behaviour change communication toolkit is a specialized tool that is used to alter behaviour patterns amongst a certain target group. The recently launched toolkit titled "Who is the best friend?" reaches out to prisoners  and aims at increasing their willingness to go for voluntary HIV counselling and testing services.

The colourfully illustrated flip chart tells the story of a well-liked man, who works in a factory. After a hard day's work, he visits a sex worker and engages in unprotected sex. Soon he comes across a newspaper clipping on HIV/AIDS and now fears contracting HIV. He is very worried and at this point, a friend introduces him to a voluntary counselling and testing centre where he is tested and also educated about HIV/AIDS. The illustrated flip chart encourages prisoners to visit voluntary HIV testing and counselling sites

The toolkit will be used by trained peer educators who engage in focused interpersonal communication with the prison population.  The prisoners will be able to identify with the life of a factory worker and therefore understand the risks associated with HIV and the importance of visiting a voluntary counselling and testing centre. The toolkit provides specific instructions for the peer educator to carry out one-on-one information sharing sessions, which are specially designed to the needs of the individual prisoner.

The toolkit has been developed after intensive field testing and review of lessons learnt. Focus group discussions were conducted with prisoners in order to understand their perception and attitude towards HIV counselling and testing services and this information was used to develop the toolkit.

UNODC has been  working in 21 prison sites across South Asia on the prevention of HIV through its regional project "Prevention of transmission of HIV among prisoners in South Asia". The initiatives of the project aim at establishing sexually transmitted infection treatment, voluntary counselling and testing centres, antiretroviral therapy and hepatitis and tuberculosis services for prisoners. The project has been supporting countries in the initiation and scale-up of prison-specific BCC activities, especially in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Ms. Leisha De Silva Chandrasena, Chairperson, National Dangerous Drug Control Board (NDDCB) launched the toolkit

The recently launched toolkit can be adapted to fit the needs of prisoners in countries across South Asia and will be shared with Governments and implementing partners in the region. The current version has been developed in Sinhalese, one of Sri Lanka's official languages. Similar toolkits will be developed to address issues like sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, antiretroviral therapy, hepatitis and condom usage for effective prison interventions.

Click here to view the toolkit

The toolkit was developed under UNODC's regional project "Prevention of Transmission of HIV among prisoners in South Asia" (Project RAS/H71) with the financial support of Sweden.