Cairo (Egypt), 6 January 2021 – The ongoing pandemic has overburdened health systems worldwide, and people whose immune systems have already been compromised by health conditions are increasingly vulnerable.
Among the latter segment, are people who live with HIV and need access to ongoing care. In 2019, 62 per cent of all new HIV infections worldwide were among at-risk populations, including people who use drugs and people who are in prison.
Ms. Cristina Albertin, UNODC Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa, emphasizes that "COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV.”
Ms. Albertin also highlighted that “only global solidarity and shared responsibility will help us beat the coronavirus, end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all. We can only reach our target of ending AIDS if we put all people at the center of our efforts and leave no one behind."
UNODC, in partnership with Egypt’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the National AIDS Programme (NAP) of the nation’s Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), provided additional training to 40 medical staff from seven key prisons in Egypt; to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the services provided.
UNODC experts and participants held active discussions, addressing the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV in closed settings. As well, UNODC and other experts highlighted the latest research on HIV transmission and prevention, while emphasizing upon the international standards for HIV counseling and testing.
The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok rules) were at the core of this capacity-building opportunity, as was their relevance to the prevention, treatment and care of both communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Common mental health conditions were also part of the curriculum, as were the prevention, treatment, and care of mental health disorders — including substance use disorders.
The training is part of the UNODC-led project, HIV and AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in Prison Settings, targeting the Middle East and North Africa. This UNODC initiative continues to provide prison staff with relevant knowledge on human rights-based, gender-responsive and public health-centered approaches. The efforts aim to enhance capacity in delivering a comprehensive package of HIV services within prisons and other closed settings.