Addressing HIV in the Lesotho prison system


The mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho, with a tiny population of just over two million people, is one of the countries of the world that are hardest hit by HIV, with the second highest HIV prevalence after Swaziland. More than 23% of Basotho people, or about one in four people in the country, have HIV. In 2009 there were around 23 000 new HIV infections and approximately 14 000 people died from AIDS-related causes. Over half of the 260 000 adults living with HIV in Lesotho are women. There are currently more than 200 000 orphans in Lesotho, with most of the orphaned children being due to AIDS.

As in many other countries, there are also a number of key affected populations in Lesotho – one of them being prison inmates. Studies have shown that prisons are a high-risk environment for HIV transmission. Furthermore, prisoners who are already HIV-infected often end up with very weak immune systems because of overcrowded living conditions, stress, malnutrition, drugs and violence that is so prevalent in prisons, making them more susceptible to getting ill. But, in spite of this knowledge, the health and well-being of prisoners is often neglected and overlooked.

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