Initiate Every Prisoner On Prep Upon Sentencing

By Michael Gwarisa

THERE is a raging debate on whether prisoners should be allowed access to condoms during their incarceration period in order to prevent HIV transmission in among prison inmates.

According to statistics, male prisons have an HIV prevalence rate of about 24 percent of which much of the infection is believed to be happening during their tenure in prisons as a result of sodomy activities.

During a Parliamentary HIV awareness meeting in Kariba recently, elders and parliamentarians argued along the lines of having condoms distributed in prisons or not. According to Zimbabwean culture and beliefs, Homosexuality is taboo and availing condoms to prisoners is as good as good as accepting homosexuality to prevail.

That is government’s position and society also subscribes to such a school of thought. Truth of the matter is that the Homosexuality debate is yet to end in Zimbabwe and even if the opposition party is to ascend to power, legalising such an act is still viewed as dirty and unwelcome in our society, that is a fact.

So now that Zimbabwe is saying to Condoms in prisons what could be the best way forward. Civic society groups and some pressure groups representing gays and lesbians might want to contest and push for the recognition of gay rights in prisons but truth of the matter is, the longer it takes to find a solution to prevent the spread of HIV in prisons, the more difficult in will become to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

Health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa always talks of closing the taps to new HIV infections, by this he means providing preventive methods to every societal group which is at greater risk of getting the HIV virus including prisoners.

Since condoms have been rejected in prisons, the best alternative to preventing the spread of HIV in prisons is through initiating every prisoner on Pre Exposure Prophylaxes (Prep) right on the day of sentencing.

WHAT IS Prep?

is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV.

WHY PREP?

Here is a news flash!
Things are happening in prisons and intercourse between men is taking place everyday, it’s just that society tends to turn a blind eye. Even some relations in prison might be consensual, most new recruits or new inmates are raped or forced into submission by senior inmates.
At times, due to hunger in our prisons, the new inmates and the weak ones are bullied during meal hours and end up not having enough food. As a result, they turn to prostitution for survival and in the process contract HIV.

Moreover, is has been scientifically proven that sex between men exposes players to a greater risk of contracting HIV due to the serious bleeding as a result of the friction. The anus which is the most used organ during the process is also believed to have a large surface area which is fertile ground for multiplication of the HIV virus.
In the developed world for example the United States, HIV prevalence is still very high amongst gay man probably due to reasons mentioned above.
Let us not forget that most of these men who are abused sexually or who engage in consensual intercourse in prisons have wives back home. By depriving inmates of preventive measures, more innocent women will be put at risk of infection and the dream of ending HIV/AIDS will remain a far-fetched one.
Key populations are a key part in the fight against HIV and AIDS and deserve every right to basic health care services. In as much as prisoners are outcasts and deemed dangerous, they also must be treated as normal human beings.

Does Prep Have Side Effects?
Just like any medication, Prep has its own side effects. According to Population Services International (PSI) who are driving the Prep projects in Zimbabwe, Prep drugs can cause nausea and other minor effects although no major side effects have been reported so far.

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