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IRIN News Examines Spread of HIV, TB in Cameroon's Prisons

February 23, 2006

IRIN News on Tuesday examined the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Cameroonian prisons, which is a serious concern, according to IRIN News. The HIV-prevalence rate at New Bell prison in the city of Douala increased from 11.5% in 2004 to 12.1% in 2005, IRIN News reports. However, the actual prevalence rate could be higher because stigma associated with the disease and activities that spread it might discourage prisoners from getting tested, according to a 2003-2004 study conducted by the Germany-based development group GTZ. Curbing the spread of TB in the country's prisons also is difficult because there are no special wards to house affected inmates, and hospitals do not want to admit prisoners because of security concerns, according to Ello Germain Emougou, the head prison administrator in the Littoral Province. Prison overcrowding fuels the spread of both diseases, IRIN News reports. GTZ, prison administrators, the Ministry of Justice and local nongovernmental organizations have launched a program to deal with the issue of HIV/AIDS and TB in prisons that aims to identify and treat affected inmates and provide education to prisoners and staff about transmission of the diseases. In addition, testing and prevention programs have been implemented. Counselors from the organization SunAIDS visit New Bell several times weekly to educate prisoners, conduct testing and provide counseling. Laboratory workers from Douala Hospital also visit the prison weekly to take blood samples from prisoners who want to be tested (IRIN News, 2/21).

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