Mozambique's prison population faces a heightened risk of HIV/AIDS, the country's justice minister, Benvinda Levy, said on Monday at the opening of a National Seminar on Prison Health, AIM/AllAfrica.com reports. Levy said that HIV prevalence inside prisons is between two and 50 times higher than that among the general population, which "presents significant challenges to the prison and public health authorities" in Mozambique. The country currently has a prison population of about 14,000 inmates, AIM/AllAfrica.com reports. The country's overall HIV prevalence among people between ages 15 and 49 is 16%, but a 2002 Ministry of Health study found that about 30% of Mozambican prisoners were HIV-positive.
According to AIM/AllAfrica.com, deteriorating infrastructure and overcrowding are creating conditions conducive to the spread of disease, including HIV/AIDS. According to Levy, Mozambican prisons foster an environment for unprotected sexual relations, including among men who have sex with men. Levy said the "conditions in which these prisoners are confined and the overcrowding increase still further vulnerability to disease, which is also worsened by the shortage of food that the prisons are able to provide." Needle sharing among injection drug users, violence within the prisons and lack of adequate health care also contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to AIM/AllAfrica.com, international studies have found that the most vulnerable sectors of the population -- who often are exposed to multiple risks prior to incarceration -- comprise a significant portion of the prison population.
In an effort to better address health concerns in the country's prisons, Mozambique's Health Ministry will provide specialist training to medical staff at prisons, Gina Cumba, head of the medical department in the prison service, said. Cumba said that a survey to assess the training needs of prison medical staff "has already been undertaken" and that the health and justice ministries will discuss the results. In addition, a memorandum of understanding on prison health between both ministries is expected to be signed soon, AIM/AllAfrica.com reports (AIM/AllAfrica.com, 4/13).
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