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04 Dec 2003 13:23
The correctional services department needs to act now to combat Aids in prisons to prevent a national crisis in a few years, New National Party MP Adriaan van Jaarsveld said on Thursday.
Speaking at an event in Worcester to mark World Aids Day, he said the department acknowledged last year its estimate, that three percent of the prison population was HIV-positive, was unrealistically low.
According to inspecting judge of prisons Johannes Fagan this figure could be closer to 60%.
“The NNP would like to know how the department could give an accurate figure, as the official figure can only be based on prisoners who have gone for voluntary testing. How many HIV-positive inmates are there who have not been tested?” he asked.
The number of Aids-related deaths in prison was estimated to have grown by 750%since 1995.
“If the department is unable to separate HIV positive prisoners from the general prison population, they should consider releasing terminally ill prisoners into the care of their families because they are a financial burden to the department.”
The NNP was finalising a Private Member’s Bill regarding the separate detention of HIV-positive inmates, voluntary HIV-testing, and early release of terminally ill prisoners.
Overcrowding was at the root of the problem—with the daily growth in the prison population, the infection rate soared—and therefore, finding solutions for overcrowding would reduce the infection rate in prisons.
When entering prisons, prisoners were condemned to punishment for their crimes and should not be condemned to HIV and Aids, Van Jaarsveld said.
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