THERE is need for more effort in the fight against HIV to reduce transmission and improving treatment, care and support in prisons because its prevalence in prisons is higher than the general population, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said.
Speaking when UNODC and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) launched a joint regional programme entitled ‘‘Promoting human rights and access to health services in prisons in Southern Africa’’, UNODC programme oversight associate (HIV in Prisons), Andreas Zeidler, noted that fighting HIV in prisons was an integral part of reducing the spread of infection in the broader society.
Mr. Zeidler noted that the HIV prevalence in Southern Africa was still a challenge despite the region only constituting five per cent of the world population but had about 20 per cent of people living with HIV.
“Southern Africa remains the epicentre of the global HIV and tuberculosis (TB) epidemics. Though the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) constitutes much less than five per cent of the global population, it is home to about 20 per cent of the people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world.
“As prison populations globally tend to have a higher HIV prevalence than the general population, reducing transmission and improving treatment, care and support in prisons is an integral part of reducing the spread of infection in the broader society” Mr. Zeidler said.
He said the regional programme was designed around the understanding of the need to improve the situation at both policy and service delivery levels to contribute to more effective and sustainable improvement of health and realisation of rights of prisoners.
He explained that the programme targeted prison populations in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“In close cooperation with the member states, the regional programme will provide technical assistance for data collection and monitoring, advocacy, policy development, capacity building, coordination, health service delivery and rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-prisoners.
“The regional programme builds on and compliments the on-going successful implementation of HIV in prisons programmes both by UNODC and VSO in sub-Saharan Africa and will benefit from the joint experience and expertise,” he said.
The regional programme is made possible by the financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Swedish International Development Agency and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.