South Africa: Prisons Cannot Manage AIDS Plight
March 13, 2003
A report by US researcher K.C. Goyer suggests that South Africa's correctional services department is struggling to turn its written HIV/AIDS policy into reality and does not know the real extent of the pandemic in prison. Goyer's research on Westville Medium B prison in KwaZulu-Natal, the only study conducted on HIV prevalence in a South African prison, is still being reviewed by the department, which insists it contains a number of inaccuracies. Goyer also compiled a report, released by the Institute of Security Studies on HIV/AIDS, omitting her Westville research, but including interviews with department employees and psychologists.
The institute's report says 45.2 percent of South Africa's 175,000 prisoners are HIV-positive. Correctional services says it has approximately 5,000 confirmed HIV-positive prisoners, a figure it admits includes only those who have volunteered to be tested. Last year, the department suggested that the current estimate of the HIV-positive prisoner population (3 percent) could be "unrealistically low" -- but it rejected the estimate by inspecting judge of prisons, Judge Johannes Fagan, that the figure could be closer to 60 percent. A 1999 study of postmortem reports found that 90 percent of deaths in custody were from AIDS-related causes, and it predicted by 2010 nearly 45,000 prisoners would die.
The department has implemented a number of programs to prevent HIV transmission. STD clinics were to be provided at all prison hospitals, where diet supplements and counseling would be given to prisoners with HIV/AIDS. Condoms would be given to prisoners provided they had undergone AIDS education and counseling. A member of the nursing staff was appointed provincial HIV/AIDS coordinator to advise heads of prisons and monitor clinics and education programs.
But prisoners told institute researchers they could not ask for HIV tests because of costs, and they were reluctant to ask for condoms because they first faced lectures on their sexual practices. Correctional spokesperson Russel Mamabolo responded that prisoners may request HIV tests, and rapid tests are also available; condoms are distributed "discreetly"; and there is no such thing as "insufficient nutrition" in the prisons.
Business Day (South Africa)
03.11.03; Chantelle Benjamin
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.