THE Commissioner-General of Prisons and Correctional Services of Zimbabwe, Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi, has called for the distribution of condoms among inmates in prisons and compulsory HIV/Aids testing to curb the spread of the virus.
Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said an attempt was made to give condoms to prisoners when the Prisons and Correctional Services carried out a survey around the country’s prisons but there was a lot of resistance as some inmates queried why they were being given the condoms.
The development is likely to spark a lot of debate especially among human rights activists and other sectors who might question the logic behind the need for condoms when prisons are not unisex.
But cases of sodomy and homosexual relationships are rife in prisons with some inmates being hauled before the courts for engaging in gay sex or sodomy.
HIV prevalence in prisons stands at 28 percent, according to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and some inmates are incacerated while carrying the virus while others contract HIV after engaging in same sex relationships.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of the 4th annual Zimbabwe Uniformed Forces Health Services Conference here yesterday, Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi appealed to the uniformed forces and their strategic partners to join hands in lobbying for legislation that would support the distribution of condoms to inmates.
“As people who are in charge of prisons, we’ve tried to issue condoms to inmates in prisons but they quizzed why we were doing so when they don’t share cells with women,” he said.
Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said he would be happy if something is done with a view to making the HIV testing of inmates compulsory and issuance of condoms mandatory.
“We’ve a problem as people who take care of prisoners…please help us make such recommendations on whether it should be mandatory and compulsory to test inmates for HIV and Aids and also to provide them with condoms.
“That’s an issue that can be discussed to help policy makers and I’m giving you the expressway to discuss this issue and maybe make recommendations in this meeting or in your next year conference.
“I’m glad that there are some sister countries here…we don’t know how they do it in their countries but in Zimbabwe we wish this matter could be debated,” he said.
Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said they were worried about the HIV status of inmates in the country’s prisons, hence the need for preventive measures.
“President Mugabe recently pardoned close to 4, 000 inmates and we’re worried about their status. However, these couldn’t be tested because human rights groups would say that’s a violation of their rights,” he said.
Turning to the conference, which started on Monday to discuss clinical issues in particular psycho-social aspects of HIV and Aids in Southern Africa, Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said:
“HIV and Aids is a menace to socio-economic and health aspects not only within the uniformed forces but to the country, region and continent at large.”
He called for teamwork from all sectors if the disease is to be completely wiped out, adding that the psycho effects of HIV and Aids are universal.
The theme for the conference was, “Psycho-social impact of HIV and Aids on national security: Strengthening synergies locally and beyond.”