HIV and harm reduction conference, Kazakhstan
EXPERTS DISCUSS ISSUES OF HIV PREVENTION IN PRISONS OF KAZAKHSTAN WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF EU-PRI PROJECT
Astana, 22nd August 2012
Penal Reform International, jointly with Harm Reduction International, held a conference on “HIV Prevention and harm reduction in prisons of Kazakhstan” on 22 August. The conference was held within the framework of the PRI project “The programme for HIV/AIDS and TB prevention in female prisons”, which was launched in 2011 and is financially supported by the European Union.
The heightened risk of HIV transmission and prevalence of other health problems among prisoners require effective public policy. Lack of harm reduction programs in the country aggravates the situation related to the problem of HIV infection among prisoners. In fact, today prisoners with a drug addiction may transmit HIV and other infections to each other via shared contaminated injection equipment.
Consideration of admissibility to introduce at least a pilot project for harm reduction, i.e. syringe and needle exchange or introduction of opioid substitution therapy, have been long proposed by the experts and international community. However, penal system public authorities always react cautiously to the initiatives.
“About 140 cases of HIV infection in prisons were detected in 2011, and 24 prisoners were infected in prisons in the first half of 2012” Saule Mektepbayeva, PRI regional director in Central Asia says, - “It happens because use of drugs has remained constant in prisons and, as research has shown, it is a global trend that has no exceptions. However, we have no effective harm reduction programs for today; we work more on prevention of drugs from entering the prison but we do not promote harm reduction when drugs get into prison.”
“Preventive work in the prison system can be effective via development of close cooperation and mutual understanding of all concerned parties: state bodies, correctional officers and non-governmental organizations. As the project shows, current preventive measures are inefficient due to lack of clear coordination and involvement of non-governmental sector,”- as Nadezhda Kozachenko, director of public association “Credo” adds.
The conference was organized by Penal Reform International in Central Asia jointly with the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Penal System Committee (KUIS in Russian) of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kazakhstan and was funded by the European Union. The event involved representatives of state agencies, non-governmental and academic sectors of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as foreign experts and international organizations.
Journalists were invited to attend the conference on 22 August 2012 in the hotel «RIXOS» conference hall in Astana, 7 Kunaev str, at 10:00 am.
For additional information please contact Azamat Shambilov, PRI project coordinator, tel./fax: +7 (7172) 78 76 74, 78 76 73, email: email@example.com, or Ms Karla Jamankulova, Press and Information Officer at the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan, tel.+ (7172) 97 11 48, Karlygash.Jamankulova@eeas.europa.eu.