19 November 2009 - HIV and AIDS is a devastating problem among injecting drug users and prisoners. In nearly all countries, HIV prevalence in prison is higher than in the community.
Worldwide, the high levels of HIV in prisons are a serious threat for prison populations and the broader community. The lack of knowledge and education amongst prisoners regarding the risks of contracting and transmitting HIV, along with the absence of protective measures and proper health services, increases their risks of infection. Upon release, most return to the community where they engage in pre-existing sexual behaviour such as multiple concurrent partners and injecting drug use, as a result increasing the risks of HIV infection for the broader community.
The HIV epidemic among injecting drug users is characterized by notable regional and in-country variations. Nevertheless, once the virus is introduced into an injecting drug user community, prevalence can rise up to 90 per cent in less than two years.
UNODC is working around the world to help those who are affected and when possible to prevent the spread of the virus amongst the most vulnerable.
In Southern Africa, UNODC in partnership with the World Health Organization, the World Bank and UNAIDS launched the African HIV in Prisons Partnership Network (AHPPN) on 18 November. The network will support relevant actors in Southern and East Africa in their efforts to mount effective, human rights-based responses to HIV in prisons in Africa. This will be done through advocacy and facilitation of international, national and multi-sectoral cooperation. The network hopes to increase knowledge sharing between officials and civil society. ( Read Press Release)
In order to support the networks activities, the AHPPN website was also launched to facilitate information sharing and ideas generation. One of the key advantages of the website will be the ability to connect actors across the continent and break the geographical divide whilst linking diverse people sharing a common interest.
In Brazil, UNODC has joined forces with the Brazilian government, an NGO Pact Brazil and USAID to create a support programme for youth leaders living with HIV and AIDS, a number of whom are former drug users. Twenty three young men and women leaders are undergoing a three-month training to equip them with necessary knowledge in HIV and AIDS responses. Following the training, they will be deployed for an eight - month assignment with governmental and non-governmental bodies that are involved in the Brazil national response to the AIDS epidemic. The training also serves as a forum for the youths to learn from each others' experiences, and get more information on their rights as people living with HIV and AIDS, which they will use beyond the training.
UNODC is a co-sponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as lead agency in the UNAIDS family for HIV and AIDS prevention and care among injecting drug users and in prison settings.
UNODC in Brazil (Portuguese)