Justice in Prisons: Health Access, Treatment and Prevention at Prisoner Networking Zone
Often coming from situations of the greatest risks for HIV, the dangers confronting prisoners are multiplied when, in overcrowded cells, lacking basic nutrition, health and hygiene and ability to protect themselves from infection, they are locked away, whether convicted or awaiting trial in some of the world’s poorest countries. While prisoners around the world are disproportionately affected by HIV, and while their incarceration offers opportunities to reach them with medical interventions, donor responses the conditions in which prisoners live have been limited. Health through Walls, a U.S.-based nonprofit that has worked in Caribbean and African prisons to introduce sustainable disease prevention and treatment practices, and AIDS Foundation East-West, a Dutch nonprofit organization working to address HIV risks among those most vulnerable, including prisoners in Eastern Europe and Asia, are presenting the first Prisoner Networking Zone during the conference, from July 22-27, at Booth 804 in the Global Village. Topics during the week will include “Improving outcomes through pretrial justice,” “Opportunities and Challenges in the collaboration between NGOs and Penal Systems,” “Detention as ‘treatment’,” updates on conditions in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaican and African prisons, and more. For more information on activities in the prisoner networking zone, go to AFEW‘s or Health through Walls‘ web sites.
Turning the Tide for MSM and HIV
Dr. Paul Semugoma had studied medicine in two countries and was practicing in Uganda, when a male patient recently diagnosed with HIV asked him how he could protect a man he had sex with from getting the virus.
“And I realized, I didn’t know,” Semugoma told a group at a noon event hosted by the Global Forum on MSM and HIV. None of the doctors around him did either, he discovered. As he sought the information the patient needed, he also learned the role that stigma and fear played in endangering his patients’ lives.
Semugoma is scheduled to be a plenary speaker at the 2012 AIDS Conference on Thursday, July 26, discussing “Turning the Tide for MSM and HIV” when the morning session turns its attention to “Dynamics of the Epidemic in Context.”
“The fact that people are closeted and invisible, you don’t know what needs they have,” he said. He emphasized each country in Africa is different. South Africa, where a transgender gay activist recently was beheaded, he says, “is legally open, on the ground the situation is different,” while Uganda, where he has continued to live and work, was diverted only by international pressure from passing anti-homosexuality laws that included the death penalty, and is seeing renewed efforts on the part of legislators seeking punitive measures towards gay people and those who provide health services for them.
“Places differ, but there’s a lot of hostility that has to always be taken into account,” he said. “People are not going to come out. If you want them to take their health into their own hands, you have to empower them. You have to show them that the closet is bad.”
That information and treatment that helps prevent transmission remains inaccessible to significant groups of people adds up to lethal negligence, he pointed out.
“The West talks about HIV as a chronic disease,” he said. “Actually, in most of Africa, it’s still a killer disease. Prevention is still the most important thing we can do.”
Semugoma will discuss issues obstructing access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as his experiences as a physicianin Uganda, in his plenary address.
Getting HIV Treatment to the Most People
With funding shortfalls standing between scientific gains on HIV treatment as prevention, and realized progress against the epidemic, Medecins Sans Frontieres has produced this report: “Getting Treatment to the Most People” which points to success of decentralized programs that rely on nurses and other nonphysician providers, as well as community-based programs such as “ART groups” in which patients take turns getting six month checkups and bringing supplies of medicine back. Drug stockouts, countries that don’t allow nurses to initiate treatment, and policies limiting multi-month drug supplies have been obstacles to those successes, though. And the article points out,”Even with the most innovative strategies and tools, confronting and reversing the HIV epidemic will fail without sufficient increases in funding and decreases in drug prices. “Getting HIV Treatment to the Most People” also will be among MSF’s presentations during the conference, with more posted on the organization web site.
Get Online Coverage, starting with a Live WebCast
The Kaiser Family Foundation is partnering with the XIX International AIDS Conference to make online access to the conference available, starting Sunday. The 2012 coverage will be available at www.kff.org/aids2012, where a guide to coverage is posted now.