Prisoners' access to anti-retroviral treatment
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Prisoners are susceptible to a number of illness and diseases. This may relate to the conditions of prisons themselves (e.g. poor ventilation is associated with TB), life style (e.g. poor nutrition and substance abuse), and sexual violence (e.g. male rape in prison). From a healthcare perspective, prisons present a particular challenge. From 1996 to 2005, the number of prisoners dying from natural causes per year increased from 211 to 1507. HIV/Aids has contributed to this increase. The rate of HIV infection amongst prisoners is unknown and the Department of Correctional Services (the Department) has commissioned a research project to establish this. In the absence of accurate and publicly accessible data, it is difficult to make any accurate assessment of the size and scope of HIV infection and persons living with AIDS in our prisons. What we do know is that prisoners’ access to anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) is extremely limited. To date only one accredited ARV treatment centre has been established by the Department at Grootvlei Correctional Centre in the Free State. In September 2005, the Department briefed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services regarding prisoners’ access to ARV with reference to the “HIV/Aids Policy for Offenders”. It reported that the Department was not accredited to provide ARV to prisoners. It also noted that the ARV roll-out centres were located off-site at the Department of Health facilities, which created security concerns as a result of lack of staff and logistics (e.g. transport). In essence, the Department's position was that, while it would like to provide access to ARV, it lacked the resources (staff and infrastructure) to do so. The applicants in the present case sought to remove all obstacles preventing the prisoners from accessing ARV.