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HIV/AIDS prevalent among inmates in Northern region

Chairperson of the Committee on HIV/AIDs, Sarah Kayagi.

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Committee on HIV/AIDS in the Parliament of Uganda is worried about the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) among inmates in the Northern region.

The committee says that cases of STIs including gonorrhea and syphilis were widely registered among inmates in Gulu main prison, Kitgum prison, Kiryandongo, and Kaladima prisons in Amuru district.

Speaking during a visit to Gulu main and Kitgum prisons on Saturday, Sarah Kayagi, the Chairperson of the Committee said that besides UTIs and STIs, they also discovered a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among inmates within the different detention facilities they had visited.

According to Kayagi, Kiryandongo prisons had an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 18.7%, Gulu Main Prisons 18.6% while Kitgum Prisons registered over 10% prevalence which she notes is above the national prevalence.

On the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the prison authorities told the committee that most inmates come when they are already HIV positive and must have been convicted of sexual offenses.

Kayagi said that their findings linked the high cases of UTIs and STIs to poor hygiene and sanitation as well as the lack of adequate access to clean sources of water for personal hygiene among inmates.

For instance, in Kaladima Prisons, Kayagi said that the 186 inmates depend on an unprotected well in the area which they use both for drinking and hygiene, which exposes them to risks of infections.

Alfred Alula, the Officer In-charge of Gulu Main Prisons told the MPs that there is a high relationship between criminality and HIV among their inmates. Alula also said that they still lack basic equipment for screening, testing, and responding to inmates whose conditions deteriorate.

Austin Ocen, the Gulu Central Police Commander noted that they have inadequate diagnostic equipment to support the management of clients under care, logistic gaps, knowledge gaps in comprehensive HIV/AIDS care, and limited capacity to extend HIV/AIDS services to all police units, and insufficient condom supply to adequately serve all police units.

In December 2020, UNAIDS released a new set of ambitious targets calling for 95% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2025.

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