Overcrowding, Drug Use in Prisons Poses Risk for Spread of HIV, U.N. Official Says
The spread of HIV is widespread in overcrowded prisons worldwide, creating a health risk for communities once inmates are released, Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said on Thursday, Reuters reports. Costa said that the spread of HIV through drug use in prisons is a major issue, and he noted that there are 30 million people detained at any given time worldwide. According to Costa, releasing large numbers of HIV-positive prisoners into society presents severe public health consequences. "This is a health bomb because of HIV they take along, and this is a bomb because prisons are universities for criminals," he said at a news conference.
Costa said that UNODC particularly is concerned about substandard prisons, adding that overcrowding is especially rampant in prisons in Africa and Central America. The United Nations has led a campaign to improve prisons and created standards for management and treatment of inmates. Costa called on the United Nations to promote the guidelines and alternatives to prison sentences for some crimes to ease overcrowding, Reuters reports (Westfall, Reuters, 4/16). Representatives from UNODC's 40 member nations are meeting through April 24 to examine penal reform and reducing prison populations (Oleksyn, AP/Taiwan News, 4/17).