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MPs want distribution of condoms in prisons

by Staff reporter
12 Jun 2017 at 07:24hrs | Views
Government has been caught between a rock and a hard surface over the high prevalence of HIV and Aids in prisons, with legislators calling for distribution of condoms to inmates as a way of combating new infections among prisoners.

Addressing an Aids awareness workshop for parliamentarians in Midlands at the weekend, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health chairperson, Ruth Labode said the government should come up with "unpopular decisions" of distributing condoms to prisons as a way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids, than allowing inmates to die from the virus.

"This is a contentious issue that we must tackle holistically. There is a feeling in some quarters in government which says if we put condoms, we will be declaring that every prisoner is a homosexual. But it is common knowledge that in prison, people are raped," she said.

"We also have a study, which showed that there is a higher prevalence rate of HIV infections than the rate in the outside world and this means there is a problem and we must talk to each other on this issue frankly and honestly."

The HIV prevalence rate in prisons is around 28%, with new infections being recorded at a time the government has refused to acknowldge the existence of homosexuality in gaols.

Labode said the government should take the bull by the horns and make unpopular decisions if it is serious in ending HIV and Aids by 2030.

"It must be a radical and unpopular decision. Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services boss (Commissioner-General Paradzai) Zimondi and (Health minister David) Parirenyatwa need to talk because these people are our husbands, who go there negative and come out positive. They come out and infect us. Something must be done," she said.

Midlands Senator Morgan Komichi (MDC-T) said although the issue is controversial and has cultural challenges, something must be done.

"I have been in prison and I know what happens. I think we must find a better way to introduce mandatory testing for all inmates so that this issue is dealt with once and for all. This is a constitutional matter because, as a country, our law does not allow homosexuality. So we need to suit and talk to save our people," he said.

Adolf Maveneke, of SafAids, said Lesotho has introduced condoms in prisons as a way of curbing new infections among inmates.

Director for TB and Aids in the Health and Child Care ministry, Owen Mugurungi, appealed to legislators to craft laws that recognise the practice of homosexuality to allow the ministry to reach out to the targeted group with contraceptives.

He said besides the high prevalence rate of HIV and Aids in prisons, inmates were also exposed to TB infections due to overcrowding.

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Source - newsday