‘Huge challenges’ on HIV in prisons says Zambian minister

Prison officials must be helped to overcome the "huge challenges" linked to HIV in prisons, Zambia’s home affairs deputy minister has said.

Prison officials must be helped to overcome the “huge challenges” linked to HIV in prisons, Zambia’s home affairs deputy minister has said.

Speaking at the African HIV in Prisons Partnership Network (AHPPN) conference at Chrismar Hotel in Livingstone this week, deputy home affairs minister Stephen Kapyongo said “concentrated efforts by governments and other stakeholders” were needed to improve the HIV response in prisons.

Kapyongo added that, while a lot has been done in the fight against HIV/AIDS, new ways to fight the virus on the African continent need to be found.

“We, as government will not shy away from the fight against this deadly ‘scourge’. Our resolve to fight the virus is in tandem with the PF manifesto in which we promised the people of Zambia that when we come into office we shall scale up effective interventions for prevention and management of HIV and AIDS among others.

“This is so because as government we believe that not only good health is an essential prerequisite for national development but more so an HIV free nation,” Kapyongo said.

He added: “AHPPN operates on the premise of promoting collaborative, inclusive, and intersectoral cooperation and action in the continued fight against HIV and AIDS. This indeed a very noble cause.”

Kapyongo told the conference, made up of delegates from Cote d’Ivorie, Uganda, Rwanda, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Namibia, Kenya and South Africa as well as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) officials, that AHPPN represents a “unifying factor for Africa” that could enable the continent to come up with common standards in dealing with HIV.

Prisons Commissioner Percy Chato said AHPPN and the Zambia prisons service have shared best practices in responding to HIV by posting comments on online networks comprised of persons living with HIV and AIDS. AHPPN has also mounted effective human rights-based responses to HIV and tuberculosis in prisons with the assistance of UNODC.