Akollo Foundation - Voice of the Voiceless

HIV: Campaigning for change

The treatment and support for offenders with HIV/AIDs in prisons is a global problem. We support many national and global campaigns that challenge local laws relating to the reformation programmes for offenders and to the availability of HIV treatments both during and after incarceration. Smarter laws, rehabilitation and drug treatments can help us grow in the right direction.

These are some of the campaigns weíre involved in that challenges the way HIV risks, tests and treatments are carried out in prisons today.

Awareness of HIV in prisons

The risk of transmitting HIV is greater in prisons than in many other incarcerated populations.

A high number of inmates are imprisoned for drug related offences and consequently, the number of IDUs (injecting drug users) is more concentrated. This, together with an atmosphere of fear and violence, increases tension, frustration and the need for some kind of release.

The release from boredom or tension in prisons is usually found in drugs or sex. Inmates needing their next fix sometimes know the risks involved, but still take chances when the opportunities for regular satisfaction are unpredictable. Clean equipment is rarely the first priority for inmates who are drug users.

Risks of transmission are also higher in prisons due to the unavailability of condoms and the possibility of rape. Consensual sex in prisons is usually unprotected and though rarely reported, a violent rape attack can result in tearing and bleeding that also increases the risks of transmission.

Our campaign is to increase the awareness of the HIV risks in prisons to inmates and offer/run preventative programs to reduce transmission.

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Associated links:
http://www.avert.org/prisons-hiv-aids.htm
http://www.nat.org.uk/Information-and-Resources/Prisons.aspx

Dealing with HIV/AIDs in prison

Prisoners have the right to keep their medical history private.

HIV is still a serious issue in the UK, with over 6000 people being diagnosed every year. Anyone can get HIV if they are sexually active. Higher rates in the UK are among gay or bisexual men and African communities.

Just because you are sent to prison does not mean that you must lose your legal and human rights. Prisoners have rights to be visited by their families and to the respect and privacy about medical conditions, including HIV/AIDs.

Often, inmates are segmented and treated differently if they have HIV, highlighting their condition to other prisoners.

Our campaign is to improve HIV information in prisons, provide ongoing support that an infected inmate needs during their sentence and after including preventing unauthorised disclosure of their medical history.

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Treatment support

Not all prisons offer HIV testing or specialist care.

Treatment for HIV/AIDs in prisons around the world today is often insufficient or unavailable. Most prisons are overcrowded with varying degrees of cleanliness and attention to hygiene, meaning transmission risks of HIV remain high. Not all prisons offer HIV testing or HIV specialist care.

HIV treatment for inmates in prison is influenced by numerous factors:

  • Prior treatment
  • Current viral load
  • Resistance to medication
  • Other injection drug use
  • Patient preferences
  • Length of sentence

Upon release, reformed offenders with HIV often need further support as they integrate back into local communities. It is important for reformed offenders to seek help and support services from organisations like the Akollo Foundation, who will assist in finding suitable housing or employment solutions, as well as providing continuing HIV related treatment, care and services.

Our campaign is to improve the range of treatments available to inmates with HIV/AIDs during their time in prison and after release.

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International

Supporting families and networks globally.

Inmates in prisons around the globe require different care and have different challenges. In Swaziland, South Africa, HIV prevalence is high and often treatment in prison is unavailable. Sexual activity is even used as negotiation in some prisons. Rape is common practice and often inmates describe a 3 month sentence as a death sentence because of the high risk of HIV.

UNAIDS, the joint UN agency programme on HIV/AIDS says "Recognising the fact that sexual contact does occur and cannot be stopped in prison settings, and given the high risk of disease transmission that it carries, UNAIDS believes that it is vital that condoms, together with lubricant, should be

readily available to prisoners. This should be done either using dispensing machines, or supplies in the prison medical service."

We recognise the need to provide extra support and care for inmates in these situations. All too often, a family can turn their backs if offenders have brought shame and disgrace to a family name. This rejection increases negativity, creates repeat crime cycles and threatens positive change.

Building relationships and retaining links with family is important for inmates in their rehabilitation and development programmes. It encourages inclusion and emotional respect as well as nurturing comfort, care and commitment to change.

We work with families of inmates and reformed offenders in social programmes that promote forgiveness, to rebuild support structures together.

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Associated links:
http://www.section27.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/15Manual.pdf
http://data.unaids.org/publications/IRC-pub01/jc277-who-guidel-prisons_en.pdf

The role of the forgiver

Give up on all hope of a better past. 

We can learn from the past, but we cannot change it.

Instead, we either torture our minds with what happened or we can forgive ourselves and build a better future together.

By clinging to deep hurt and anger caused by someone elseís actions, forgiveness is a challenge. Why should you forgive someone who has done you wrong? It could feel like youíre Ďgiving iní to the possibility of being hurt again and worse, suggesting that itís acceptable behaviour to hurt you.

But in carrying around hurt and anger intended for someone else, we only upset ourselves.

Forgiveness is about letting go of past events, upset, emotion. It allows you to free negative emotions and concentrate on positive ones in the future. It takes less energy to forgive others than it does to stay angry and upset. Releasing this negativity brings inner peace to your life. The pain from your past should no longer restrict your life from moving forward.

Whether you carry resentment for others or yourself, forgiveness is the only way to let go of inner fears and the obstacles that hold you back from living your life positively.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." Mahatma Gandhi 

The hardest thing after serving time and trying to settle back into communities is facing the judgement and prejudice that local society automatically harbours. Rather than supporting those who need further help, many communities reject the people that have brought them trouble in the past. They cannot forgive them for past behaviour for fear of repeat behaviour and continuous threat. This rejection becomes part of the problem for reformed offenders. Without social acceptance, forgiveness and local confidence, itís even harder to re-build their own self-belief, self confidence and trust.

A guiding principle for creating positive change and developing a fresh approach is to tackle the needs involved in repeating a criminal life. One of those needs is forgiveness.

Organisations, families and local communities play the role of the forgiver in breaking cycles of crime. In communities where reformed offenders are able to integrate back into local society and are forgiven their mistakes in the absence of discrimination, the outcomes are the most positive.

Trust is a powerful emotion that underwrites a relationship or social connection. For many, trust has to be earned, or at least, not broken. Having a criminal record often implies that trust is difficult to assume from the start, but it doesnít have to be that way. Give a reformed offender a reason to trust you and help rebuild theirs in return.

Our campaign is to support reformed offenders, families, friends and communities in forgiving past events and behaviours so that they rebuild trust and positive momentum.

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