August 20, 2009
Bans have not stopped risky sex and drug use among Thai prisoners, according to a recent survey of inmates. "Top officials at the Justice Ministry won't admit that such things happen, but in reality they do," said Dr. Sutayut Osornprasop, a development specialist at the World Bank office in Thailand. Sutayut conducted the survey alongside disease-control officials.
"Some inmates revealed that they offered sexual favors in exchange for cigarettes or chocolate," Sutayut said at the recent ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bali, Indonesia. Prisons should be included in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, he said.
"Inmates should be educated about AIDS and how to guard themselves against the disease," said Sutayut. "They should have access to condoms and lubricant. Blood tests should also be provided to those who want to see if they have contracted the disease." Prisoners who inject drugs need to be given access to sterile needles, he said.
The director of Thailand's Minburi jail worried that a pilot prison-based HIV prevention and treatment project that recently ended might not be taken up by the Department of Corrections. The Doctors Without Borders project ran from 2003 to 2008, and "made a lot of improvements, as we can't even afford a fulltime doctor," said Kongkrit Pornkongtwatch, who feared that infections would continue at the jail.
"Staff in other jails need to be trained" about the disease, too, Kongkrit said. "It's important that prisoners be released with training and counseling [about the disease]. This is a good model for other prisons, but that is a policy decision for the Department of Corrections."