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Sexually transmitted infections hit hard Malawi prisons; MHEN calls for comprehensive screening

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including syphilis, and HIV and AIDS, are reportedly hitting hard in the country’s prisons.

The revelations is the result of the screening exercise the Malawi Prison Department, with support from Medicin Sans Frontiers (MSF), Management Sciences for Health Challenge Tuberculosis (TB) and district health offices carried out at Chichiri and Kachere Prisons in Blantyre and Lilongwe respectively, in May this year.

The screening exercise findings show that at Chichiri Prison, syphilis tests were done on 1,880 inmates and 46 inmates were diagnosed positive.
While at Kachere Prison, 172 inmates were tested for syphilis, three tested positive and, of these, one was newly infected.

According to the findings, the inmates were screened for HIV, TB, syphilis, Hepatitis B vaccination, and nutrition (Body Mass Index screening) between ?May 16? and 29, 2017.

The report also establishes that, out of the 1,344 inmates that were screened, (at Chichiri prison) 100 are HIV+ and 62 cases are newly infected.

The development is of great concern to civil society organizations (CSOs) including Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHRREA), and Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN).

They call for the comprehensive screening in all prisons across the nation.

CHRREA Executive Director Victor Mhango, whose organization is in prisons advocacy services, also urged Government to come clearly on condom distribution in prisons to address the further spread of STIs.

Mhango observed that there is the also the possibility that the inmates were already infected at the time of their imprisonment. They however admit that chances were also high that they were infected in prison.

“I think people should be screened at the time of imprisonment in case they have contagious diseases, so that they should be treated there and then. Government should also come out clearly on the issue of the distribution of condoms in prisons,” urges Mhango.

Echoing on the same, MHEN Executive Director, George Jobe, suspects that there could be a significant number of homosexuals in the country’s prisons.
Jobe added that findings should be a wakeup call on what is happening in prisons that need urgent attention to address the challenge.

“Remember that despite that these people were imprisoned for various reasons, they are entitled to the right to health, hence the need for the screening,” urges Jobe.

A report by the Penal Reform International research on a research conducted by Dorothy Jolofani and Joseph DeGabriele, titled “HIV Transmission and Care of Prisoners,” also discloses that the acts of homosexuality are rampant in the country’s prisons as evidenced by STI cases registered in prisons.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) website indicates that the time between acquisition of syphilis and the start of the first symptom is 21 days, but can range from 10 to 90 days.

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