HIV-Positive Inmates in South African Prison End Hunger Strike Advocating Access to Treatment
More than 240 HIV-positive inmates at Westville Prison in Durban, South Africa, on Wednesday ended a hunger strike to advocate for access to treatment, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 3/29). The prisoners began the hunger strike on Monday, AFP/Independent Online reports. According to Xolani Ncemu, chair of the prison's HIV/AIDS support group, he and 241 other inmates launched the strike after months of negotiations with officials to resolve issues that have prevented some inmates from accessing treatment such as requiring identification documents. The AIDS Law Project of South Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand -- which represents 15 Westville inmates -- said that it has been talking with prison officials about the issue since September 2005 (AFP/Independent Online, 3/28). "Authorities are failing to provide inmates with medication because they don't have IDs, and the law states that you can only access antiretrovirals if you have an ID," Xolani Tsalonge, provincial coordinator for the South African HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, said. He added, "Unfortunately [the prisoners] do not have money to pay the authorities in order for them to do ID books." About 180 HIV-positive inmates need treatment, according to Tsalonge (United Press International, 3/27). In response to the hunger strike, the department of correctional services on Tuesday agreed to establish a committee to address the issues surrounding the protest. Prison authorities also have promised to provide HIV testing to prisoners, as well as access to antiretroviral drugs for those who need them, Sthembiso Mkhize, a TAC spokesperson, said, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Press, 3/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.