Sunday, 17 June 2018


THE Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) has said that it will not distribute condoms to inmates in the country’s prisons as there was no policy in place to guide such a programme.

ZPCS director health services Dr Evidence Gaka said the decision was a legislative matter which needed sanctioning from Parliament. He said, in an interview, that prison authorities would not, on their own, start distributing condoms to inmates.

Dr Gaka’s remarks come on the back of widespread debate on distribution of condoms in prisons, amid concerns over high HIV prevalence in the facilities where prisoners are suspected to be engaging in homosexual relationships. HIV prevalence among prisoners stands at 28 percent, double the national prevalence of 13,7 percent.

“This is not a prison issue. It is up to the Constitution and law makers to say ZPCS can provide condoms to prisoners,” he said.

Dr Gaka added, “Having visited a country (Lesotho) where prisoners get condoms, it became even clearer to us that this is more an issue for law makers than us. We visited that country together with law makers and they made a commitment to take the matter to Parliament.”

He said during the visit to Lesotho, they picked out that the condom distribution programme had not been evaluated, which made it difficult for any meaningful lessons to be learnt.

“We visited one of the countries that are giving condoms to prisoners. What we know is that they haven’t evaluated the programme, so it’s quite difficult to draw any lessons from that. We also picked a problem with the programme. The condoms are different from those meant for heterosexual people. These ones are slightly thicker and come with lubricants. What we picked was that the lubricants were running out faster than the condoms,” he said.

The prisons health director, said despite the high HIV prevalence rate in prisons, it was, however, not clear at what point prisoners get infected. Dr Gaka said since ZPCS had no policy to compulsorily test new prisoners upon admission it was difficult to establish why there is high HIV prevalence in prisons.

“As a country we have no policy for mandatory testing for new inmates, which makes it difficult to tell at what point one then gets the virus. Other countries are doing it but we are not there yet,” he said.

Civil rights advocates in the country have been pushing for the provision of condoms in prisons to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids, and other sexually transmitted infections. There are concerns that providing condoms in cells for purposes of homosexuality would be tantamount to legalising a crime. Same-sex relationships are illegal in Zimbabwe.

The Government has been urged to come up with a condom distribution strategy in prisons to curb new HIV infections in correctional facilities. Zimbabwe’s HIV intervention programme is anchored on prevention, underlined by the “closing the tap” mantra, as the country strides towards meeting the 90-90-90 goals to end Aids by 2030. Sunday News


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