Because of a penal system inherited from slavery and colonialism, Caribbean inmates face very harsh living conditions. Inmates living with HIV, and those who are at risk of contracting HIV while incarcerated, face systemic and policy barriers with little access to humane treatment that is consistent with the principles of international human rights.
The Pan American Health Organisation, PAHO, reports that in the Caribbean “a series of surveys conducted in 2004-2005 showed that prevalence rates among prisoners varied between 2% and 4%.
Concerns related to HIV in prisons include prevention, access to treatment and follow up after release. Because of the legal framework in most of the Commonwealth Caribbean, where buggery is illegal, the overt distribution of condoms is problematic. The distribution of condoms in prisons is perceived not only as an acknowledgement of homosexual activity but also as an endorsement of it. Thus, governments feel forced, at least publicly, to deny or oppose suggestions to introduce condoms to prisons.
Very few HIV programmes exist in the Caribbean targeted at the prison population and ex-inmates. CVC has funded interventions of the NGO “Stand Up For Jamaica” which is documenting best practices in prevention and care for inmates as well how to deal with the stigma associated with condom distribution in prisons.