Kenya tackles prisons as source of HIV infection in Kenya

Regina Ombam, the Head of Strategy Development of the National Aids Control Council Kenya shared the evidence on HIV/AIDS in prisons in Kenya and the important measures which have been taken in Kenya to address the situation at the African Correctional Services Assocation Conference in Kampala, Uganda.

Ms Ombam pointed out that the situation within prisons is a reflection of what is outside prison. Furthermore good prison health administration has an impact outside of prison in the form of reductions in morbidity and mortality.

In Kenya there are 107 prisons which take in 250 00 inmates annually. Currently there are 50 000 inmates in lock-up. These figures show that the number coming in and out of prisons each year means there is an impact outside of prison.

In 2006 Kenya established the Directorate: Prison Health Service. In this directorate health and human rights are integrated. The directorate has 124 non-uniformed health personnel, 80 uniformed health personnel.

Ms Ombam noted that the question of HIV/AIDS in prisons in Kenya is both a curative and preventive issue. In Kenya there is HIV prevalence of 6.3% (in Kenya women tend to have double the prevalence rate of men).

The prevalence among inmates in Kenya is however higher than the national average at 8.2%. Among female inmates it is 19% and among male inmates it is 5.5%, said Ms Ombam. An epidemiological study carried out identified that prisons are an important source of new infections in Kenya. The study found that married persons are the key source of new infection at 44%, casual sexual partners 22%, and prison inmates 15%.

Currently in Kenya prisons there are 2124 current HIV patients and
160 TB patients. The HIV//AIDS epidemic has caused additional strain on resources.

The health directorate is however beginning to have an impact, particulalry in prevention. Indeed there has already been a rise in the number of voluntary medical circumcisions among inmates. Medicial circumcision has been shown to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV/AIDS.


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