Monday, 25 July 2011

Woman, hard beset

Recent research among inmates in Indonesian prisons has raised a worrying red flag. While HIV prevalence among male inmates was a little over 1%, the figure was 6% among female inmates. The report does not attempt to explain this difference, although it should be noted that random selection of study prisons turned out not to include any of the narcotics prisons, where the rate among men would be expected to be much higher. A further study of these prisons is planned. But at least in theory. these results should reflect the situation in Indonesian prisons in general. Clearly we've got to strive to reduce this high rate of infection among women in prison. Ideas?

Once again, this study does not provide a picture of the incidence of HIV infection in prisons. The conventional wisdom is that HIV is spreading uncontrolled in Indonesian prisons. Redefining AIDS in Asia, the 2008 report by the Commission on AIDS in Asia, notes that "men who had recently arrived in jail were only a quarter as likely to be HIV-infected compared with other prisoners," citing a Health Ministry surveillance report as the source of this data. Perhaps this was the case then, but my gut tells me that it's not true today. Yes, there is still some drug injecting in prisons, and yes there's certainly some unprotected sex occurring.  But the study reports only 0.7% of male respondents and no female respondents had injected while in prison. And given that almost half of both sets of respondents had served less than one year of their current sentence, it does seem unlikely that a significant number had been infected after incarceration. What it does tell us is that we really do need a follow-up study to give us a better picture of the real risks for HIV infection in Indonesian prisons.

There is a good summary of the results available for download, together with the full report.


1 comment:

Tom said...

Wow - frightening and interesting, Chris! Thanks for this update - it's good to see your posts!