About 41% of South Africa’s Prison Population is HIV-Positive, Study Says
Approximately 41% of the inmates in South Africa's "overburdened" prison system are HIV-positive, according to a study released on Tuesday, Reuters Health reports. The study, conducted by the nongovernmental Institute for Security Studies, showed that since 1995, reported cases of HIV/AIDS in South African prisons have risen by 750%, and the number of natural deaths in prison has risen by about 600% over the same period, according to Reuters Health (Quinn, Reuters Health, 2/18). According to the South African Press Association, about 90% to 95% of the natural deaths were believed to have been AIDS-related, K.C. Goyer, an ISS researcher, said (South African Press Association, 2/18). Goyer said that most HIV-positive inmates "come from communities which have limited access to public health services, and these are the same communities to which they return" (Reuters Health, 2/18). Maria Mabena, acting director of health at the Department of Correctional Services, said that there were 5,285 HIV cases in the prison system last year, compared with 623 in 1995. Between 1996 and 2000, departmental statistics show that the system has experienced a 40% increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, Mabena said. According to the study, most prisoners are between 18 and 35 years old, an age group that is most likely to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, sex for money or drugs, sexual violence, or drug use (South African Press Association, 2/18). Mabena said that the DCS is realizing the importance of giving prisoners access to condoms, counseling, HIV testing and treatment. However, the South African government's policy of "discouraging use of antiretroviral drugs in the public sector" has not helped the effort to treat the country's large HIV-positive prison population, Mabena said. Nationwide, approximately five million South Africans are HIV-positive (Reuters Health, 2/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.