HIV prevalence worse in prisons than outside – UN agency
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says HIV prevalence among people in prisons is higher than in general population.
Mr Oliver Stolpe, the UNODC Representative in Nigeria, made this known in Abuja on Thursday during
“Public Presentation of HIV and AIDS Assessment in Selected Nigerian Prisons and Bostal Institutions.”
The assessment was conducted by UNODC, under the leadership of National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in cooperation with Health, Heartland Alliance International and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Also involved in carrying out the assessment was the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Stolpe said the UNODC presentation was to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day.
Nelson Mandela Day is a day to commemorate the rules of Mandela that stipulates that prisoners should enjoy the same standards for health care that available in the community.
It further specifies that healthcare services should be organised in close relationship to general public health administration for continuity of treatment and care including HIV, tuberculosis and infections diseases.
The representative said “the assessment concluded that HIV prevalence among people in prisons stood at 2.8 per cent, double the 1.4 per cent rate within the general population.”
The UNODC official explained that the study/assessment also identified a range of factors which significantly increased the risk of transmission of HIV among prisoners.
According to him, unreliable HIV testing at admission, insufficient access to retroviral treatment, high risk sexual behaviour are responsible for the prevalence.
The representative, who lauded the progress so far made in reducing national HIV prevalence, identified injection of drugs by inmates as a major cause of prevalence.
He said that reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence among prisoners was not only an issue of compliance with international standards but also essential to containing the epidemic among general population.
Dr Erasmus Morah, the Country Director, UNAIDS, said keeping communities at the centre of HIV response, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised such as people in prisons was surest way for Nigeria to end the scourge.
Moran, who underscored the importance of the study, said that key population and their partners accounted for 54 percent of new HIV infections globally.
Dr Gambo Aliyu, the Director General of NACA, promised to continue the fight against spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, especially among key population which includes prisons and Internally Displaced Persons.
The Controller General of Nigerian Prisons, Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, thanked UNODC and partners for conducting the study and for showing care to inmates.
The prisons boss, who was represented by Husaina Kore, Deputy Controller of Prisons, said that data for HIV prevalence in prisons was last conducted in the year 2000 and thanked UNODC for conducting a fresh study.