6 November 2017, Vienna, Austria - People in prisons should have uninterrupted access to HIV prevention and treatment services, equivalent to those available in the community. Continuity of healthcare services for people in prisons is a fundamental right and a critical component in effectively addressing HIV, TB and Hepatitis B&C. In this regard, UNODC is developing a technical guide to ensure continuity of HIV services for people on admission to, transfer between and release from prisons. The technical guide also addresses the high rate of overdose deaths among recently released prisoners as one of the major challenges.
UNODC HIV/AIDS Section organized an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the 30 th and 31 st of October, in Vienna, to review the draft technical guide. The EGM participants were a diverse group of experts specialised in health and HIV in prisons, including members of international and community based organizations, academia and independent technical experts.
In his opening remarks, Gilberto Gerra, Chief of UNODC Drug Prevention and Health Branch, highlighted the importance of implementing measures to ensure alternatives to incarceration for key populations, including people who use drugs. In addition, Monica Beg, Chief of UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and Chair of the meeting, emphasised that the prevalence HIV, TB and Hep C & B among prison populations are often higher than in the community and the majority of the prison population return to their communities. However, HIV services are often interrupted when people are admitted to prisons, as well as transferred between prison institutions and there are significant difficulties reconnecting them to community health services upon release. This may lead to negative health consequences on individuals and the community.
During the meeting, experts reviewed and provided technical inputs on the draft technical guide, and shared country experiences in implementing measures to ensure continuity of HIV services in prisons, to be incorporated in the final version.
In closing, Monica Beg concluded by emphasising the critical role of a multi-sectoral approach and the need for continued support from all relevant authorities, to ensure continuity of HIV services in prisons.