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Uganda Prisons clears air on HIV reports

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Prisons Service -UPS have refuted claims that several inmates are contracting HIV within their jail centers. This follows media reports last week indicating that many inmates were contracting HIV/Aids in the prison cells.

The Prisons Spokesperson, Senior Commissioner of Prisons (SCP) Frank Baine, says that most of the prisoners who were found to be HIV positive were already infected prior to their incarceration, but were unaware of their status.

Baine explained that many inmates in prisons are serving sentences or facing trial for cases of rape and defilement. “When someone is going to rape or to defile, he or she doesn’t remember to use a condom. Many learn that their rape or defilement acts made exposed them to HIV infection when they are already in jail,” Baine said.

However, Baine acknowledged that the HIV prevalence among inmates is higher than the national average. While the national HIV prevalence stands at 6.5%, Baine stated that within prisons, it is 13% for females and 11% for males. “If the HIV prevalence was a result of homosexuality as it is being alleged in the media, how come it’s high among females? The figures that were quoted were from our own examination of inmates during the time of entry or medical check-up,” Baine said.

The stories that featured in the mainstream media and social media indicated that HIV prevalence among inmates was largely due to homosexuality. However, Baine said some inmates contract HIV because of ignorance about the various ways through which it is spread.

“Some inmates pick sharp objects like razorblades and use them to clean their bodies. Some actually share these sharp objects without thinking that they could get infected with HIV through them,” Baine said.

UPS has in total 76,493 inmates across the country. These are being handled by the total personnel of 14,461 deployed at 269 prison stations.

Crowding in jail centers has often been cited as a major factor in making inmates practice homosexuality.

UPS has often said that their jails have doubled or tripled the number of inmates and this has often been blamed on case backlogs in courts of law. A year ago, UPS said it had more than 6,000 inmates who were in legal limbo. This is a situation where a suspect has no clear trial jurisdiction.

UPS said the more than 6,000 inmates had been committed by lower courts to face trial in the High Court but their trials had not kicked off for two to three years.



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