18 July 2016 - On Nelson Mandela International Day, the African Correctional Services Association and the African HIV in Prisons Partnership Network issued an urgent Call for Action on addressing HIV and health in prison settings in Africa. The Call for Action was an outcome of a Pan-African Consultation on HIV and Health in Prison Settings, which was held in Durban, South Africa, with the support of UNODC, on the sidelines of the International AIDS Conference.
The consultations were attended by Commissioner Generals of 19 African correctional services and representatives from ACSA, AHPPN, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and UNODC. The Call for Action recognizes the progress made by countries in improving access equity to health and HIV services in prisons since the first Southern and Eastern African Declaration of Commitment for HIV and AIDS Prevention, Care, Treatment and Support in Prisons, adopted in 2009. It, however, also highlights the persisting high disease burden in prisons, as well as the challenges, barriers and gaps. Health-care services in prisons constitute a thematic area under which significant advancements have been included into the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Separately, through its project on HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in Prison Settings in Sub-Saharan Africa, UNODC procured laboratory equipment (e.g. microscopes, haemoglobin machines, urine and haematology analysers) to assist the Tanzania Prison Service and the Zanzibar Correctional Facilities in the effective management of diseases of prisoners, prison staff and their families. This support provided by UNODC is in line with the importance which the Nelson Mandela Rules afford to health care in prisons, including Rule 27 and its reference to adequately equipped prison clinics.
UNODC also provided support to the Federal Prison Administration of Ethiopia to ensure that prisoners and prison staff have access to comprehensive HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support services. Not only have prison staff, in particular health care personnel been trained on various thematic areas, including the link between HIV, AIDS and TB in prisons. The prison hospital in the high-security prison of Kaliti is now also equipped with reasonable medical equipment and staffed with relevant medical personnel and technicians. For some medical services, specialists such as ophthalmologists, dermatologists, dentists and internists from community health care facilities are regularly invited to serve prisoners, prison staff, and families of prison staff at the prison hospital on a part-time basis.