Wednesday, April 24, 2024

3,650 Prisoners in Zambia living with HIV/Aids

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Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Commissioner General Fredrick Chilukutu has revealed that out of close to 25,000 inmates housed in various correctional centers in the country 3,650 are receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).

Mr. Chilukutu said special emphasis must be placed on HIV combination prevention and treatment services, as well as promoting collaboration with cooperating partners.

Mr. Chilukutu said this in a speech read for him by deputy commissioner general Tony Khunga during the 2022 World Aids Day Commemoration at Kansenshi Correctional Centre in Ndola.

He called for enhanced access to treatment among inmates living with HIV/Aids.

Mr. Chilukutu further commended the government for committing public resources towards the HIV prevention and treatment services including the provision of the Antiretroviral (ARVs).

“I want to begin by celebrating the government of the Republic of Zambia for committing public resources towards the HIV prevention and treatment services including the provision of the Antiretroviral (ARVs) life saving drugs. I also want to appreciate the Prisons Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) for the technical and financial support they continue rendering to the service to ensure inmates have equal access to HIV prevention and treatment services as that provided to the general population. On this day, we remember the millions of lives lost to HIV/AIDS over the last 40 years. During these four decades, we have lost our beloved ones to despair, stigma, exclusion and unavailability or unaffordability of ARVs. As human beings, globally we celebrate and stand in solidarity to recognize the struggles of those alive today because of the enormous progress the world has made against the pandemic,” Mr. Chilukutu stated.

He said marginalized groups such as inmates continue to face economic, social, cultural, and legal and health inequities in accessing health care services.

“We continue to stand with our colleagues, the health workers in the frontline fighting HIV/AIDS and supporting those affected by the pandemic, which is a global public health problem. The commemoration of World AIDS Day is an important event for the Zambia Correctional Service because our population is categorised as a key population affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other communicable diseases. Currently, we have close to 25,000 inmates housed in our correctional centers, of this number 3,650 inmates are receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).Reality remains that marginalized communities worldwide, including the inmate population continue to face economic, social, cultural, legal and health inequities in accessing health care services and other essential services. As we commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day today 30th November 2022 as ZCS, we are prompted to address these inequalities, which are holding back progress in ending AIDS,” Mr. Chilukutu said

He said the 2022 World Aids Day theme ‘’ Equalize, closing the gaps’’, is aimed at communicating the importance of both equitable access to health services and strengthening actions at the primary health care level.

“Indeed, the inequalities, which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic, are inevitable, but we can intercept them through recognition and implementation of proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS. Therefore, Special emphasis must be placed on HIV combination prevention and treatment services, as well as promoting collaboration with cooperating partners such as the Ministry of Health and Prisons Health Advisory Committee (PHAC), to reach the people most vulnerable to HIV and other pandemics. We have taken a step further in ensuring that services provided are evidence based and policy orientated in scaling up provision of health care service to inmates, officers and the surrounding community,” he said.

Mr. Chilukutu said the correctional service has intensified entry and exit screening of TB/HIV for all new admissions and discharges of inmates.

“As we work towards achieving this year’s theme, Zambia Correctional Service working in collaboration with cooperating partners has employed the following measures; Trained 40 new Zambia Correctional Service health workers in new HIV guidelines; Intensified entry and exist screening of TB/HIV for all new admissions and discharges; Provided IEC materials on HIV/STIS/TB prevention; Enhanced HIV treatment and support services to inmates and provision of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to inmates, correctional officers and community. We remain grateful to the Ministry Of Health and all our cooperating partners who continue to work towards ensuring that inmates have equal and quality health care services as that of the general population,” he said.

Mr. Chilukutu urged the nation to continue fighting stigma, discrimination and guarantee, human rights of all marginalized groups.

“In conclusion, I ask that we continue to fight stigma, discrimination and guarantee, human rights of all marginalized groups. This move will ensure access to HIV preventive measures, treatment and adherence that will make us achieve vision 2030, which expresses Zambian people’s aspiration “to become a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030,” and envisions a prosperous country where all Zambians including inmates have access to quality health services.And when we achieve our goal we will have fairer, more equal and healthier societies. This is all our responsibility,” he said.

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