Lawmakers and other stakeholders are seized with the unenviable task of crafting strategies on how best to prevent HIV transmission in prisons where the disease prevalence rate is more than twice the national average.
Legislators constituting the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health met in Kariba for a four day retreat with discussions focused on whether or not prisoners should be provided with condoms given evidence of high risk of HIV transmission in jails.
The meeting was a follow up on a recent study tour of prisons in Lesotho by local legislators, where inmates are not directly provided with condoms, but have some access to the HIV and AIDS preventive commodity.
Both Zimbabwe and Lesotho do not recognise same sex relationships, but participants felt that policy makers should not pretend such relationships are not taking place given the high prevalence rate of 28 % in prisons compared to the national average in the open society which stands at 13, 7%.
Health Portfolio Committee members; Mr Prince Sibanda and Cde Darmian Mumvuri said they are of the opinion that failure to reduce HIV transmission in prisons will further expose the public in open society to the risk of infection.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Phoka Scout of the Lesotho Correctional Services Health Department said perceived risk of new HIV infections in prisons is reason enough for stakeholders to be compelled to provide condoms as one part of a whole package of the prevention matrix.
Meanwhile, the tuberculosis (TB) burden in prisons is also higher than the national average.
According to a presentation by Dr Evidence Gaka of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS), the disease burden stands at 575 per 100 000 in prison, compared to a national average of 275 per 100 000.