UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said today at the occassion of his presentation at the AIDS 2010 conference, that there is an urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice and prison system to ensure an adequate response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and detainees’ human rights. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prisons and the measures authorities take to deal with it, impact – and often violate – detainees’ human rights.
For several reasons, prisons are characterized by particularly high HIV prevalence and are conducive to the spread of the epidemic. The transmission of HIV largely is due to risk behaviour and the failure of states to provide harm reduction measures. Evidence-based interventions, such as voluntary HIV testing and counseling and the provision of condoms, needles, syringes and opioid substitution therapy, would provide effective means to contain the spread of HIV. However, locked up behind prison walls, the fate of detainees is largely forgotten by society. The mere fact that about 30 million detainees enter and leave prisons every year highlights that prisoners’ health is a pressing public health issue.
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