Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

HIV/AIDS Awareness of Male Prison Inmates in Lagos, Nigeria

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

HIV/AIDS Awareness of Male Prison Inmates in Lagos, Nigeria

Article excerpt

All over the world, the rate of crime has been on the increase and in most cases assuming very dangerous dimensions. These increases in crime rate have also been responsible for an upsurge in the prison population. This has been of great concern to all and generated a lot of research. In Nigeria, this trend has led to various studies in relation to prison and prison inmates (Animasahun, 2002, Stephens, 2006, Aneke, 2009, Chenube, 2009, Anyaeme & Izuchi, 2010, Oyinloye & Salami, 2010, & Stephens, 2012).

One of the consequences of the increase in prison population is the preponderance of HIV/AIDS among prison inmates. HIV/AIDS constitute a serious health threat for the prison population in many countries, and presents significant challenges for prison and public health authorities and governments of many nations (UNODC, 2006). International data shows that HIV prevalence among prisoners is between six to fifty times higher than that of the general adult population. In the United States of America, it is a ratio 6:1; France 10:1; in Switzerland 27:1 and in Mauritius 50:1 (Machel & Goosby, 2004). In Nigeria a recent rapid assessment of HIV/AIDS in Nigerian prisons revealed a prevalence rate of 8.7% compared to the national figure of 5.8% (Iwoh, 2004).

All over the world, statistics have shown that the largest population of prison inmates is male (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2007). They are between the ages of 18 and 55years which make them sexually active and therefore at risk of HIV/AIDS. The male dominance in prisons presupposes the preponderance of homosexuality behind the prison walls. Scaefer, Roberts-Johnson, Martin and Klocke (2012) submitted that compared with those who have not been incarcerated, the incarcerated population have more risk factors that are associated with acquiring and transmitting HIV which include injection, drugs and other drug use, commercial sex work, untreated mental illness and lower socio economic status. Imprisonment put inmates at extra disadvantage and risks of HIV/AIDS infection (Curtis, 2004).

Prior to incarceration most prison inmates engage in risky sexual practices such as unprotected sex with multiple partners, homosexuality, commercial sex work, transactional sex, sexual violence, drug abuse, sex in exchange for drugs and impaired judgment from drug intoxication( Audu , Ogboi, Abdullahi, Sabitu, Abah & Enokela , 2013). Although, most of prison inmates acquire HIV before incarceration, there are some factors within the prison that promotes the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigerian prisons.

The Nigerian/African Context

One of the prevalent challenges in the Nigerian prisons which also predispose prison inmates to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS is overcrowding. The overcrowded nature of prisons makes the available cells a breeding ground for HIV/AIDS (Joshua & Ogboi, 2008). According to Ogundipe (2010) the former Controller General of Prisons, overcrowding is the greatest impediment to prison reforms. Most of the prisons in Nigeria today were the ones constructed by the colonial masters which were meant to accommodate very few inmates. For instance, the total lock up capacity of Medium and Ikoyi Security Prisons, Ikoy is nine hundred and eight hundred respectively. However, statistics available on the notice board of these two prisons as at the time of conducting a study by the researcher showed that these two prisons at times accommodate close to two thousand inmates each in these prisons (Stephens, 2012).

Another contributory factor that exacerbates the prevalence of HIV inside prisons according to Gear (2006) is the physical condition of most African prisons, along with inadequate food and nutrition, and almost nonexistent health services. He stated further that prisoners often exchange basic goods such as hygienic products like soap or personal items such as blankets or shoes for sex as those items may be unavailable for the majority while in prison. …

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