Panos commends Guy Scott for showing concern over prisoner welfare
Panos Institute Southern Africa has commended the Zambian government through Vice President Guy Scott for demonstrating objectivity and strategic leadership in addressing HIV transmission in prisons.
Addressing a high level consultative meeting on prison conditions, Dr. Scott challenged Members of Parliament to set aside their political differences and work together to address HIV and AIDS in prisons.
Panos Executive Director Lilian Kiefer says Dr. Scott’s address provides a springboard for more sustained interventions to address HIV and AIDS in prisons and other marginalised sectors.
Ms. Kiefer notes that it is encouraging to see the political leadership of Zambia resolving to reframe the discussion of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
She adds that addressing such a sensitive issue and calling on politicians to be a united front has the potential to bring about a significant positive difference in the lives of many Zambians.
In a statement, Ms. Kiefer said the issue of HIV transmission in Zambian prisons has generated controversy when it has featured in the media because it implies the existence of same-sex sexual relations or needle-sharing for injecting drug users within the prison settings.
She explained that by acknowledging that such practices as same sex relations and injecting drug use do take place in our prisons, Dr. Scott has challenged people who are concerned about HIV prevention to develop specific and targeted responses that address these issues.
Ms. Kiefer says the government, civil society and private sector should work together to develop targeted interventions to prevent the spread of HIV among inmates.
She further says that in order to reduce the incidence rate of HIV and manage the epidemic comprehensively, Zambia needs to be strategic in the HIV response.
Ms. Kiefer also says that addressing HIV transmission in prisons will have a great impact on efforts to address HIV transmission in the outside world and vice versa.
According to the most recent Demographic Health Survey for Zambia (ZDHS 2007), the HIV prevalence rate is 14.3% and Zambia therefore still has one of the highest prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa and the world.