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Burundi: World Aids Day: ICRC supports programmes in three prisons

30-11-2001 News Release 01/47

In connection with World Aids Day (1 December), the ICRC will be supporting activities at three civilian jails in Burundi – Mpimba, Ngozi and Gitega. From 26 November to 6 December, plays, songs, dances and poems created by the prisoners will be performed to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among the prison population.

These activities are part of the ICRC AIDS programme launched at the beginning of last year. Principal partners are the national AIDS programme, the Society for Women and Aids in Africa (SWAA) and the national tuberculosis programme. The AIDS programme is aimed at preventing and detecting the infection and managing AIDS-related opportunistic infections. The main target group are prisoners and the underprivileged in Bujumbura, Gitega and Ngozi.

“This is a pilot project, one of the first of its kind that the ICRC has launched in the 80countries where we operate.” stated Dr Martin Schneider, who runs ICRC medical work in Burundi. “Together with the SWAA, we started by training prisoners and prison officers to train others, and we’ve provided training for health personnel in prisons and health centres.”

Dr Schneider adds: “Once they understand the issues, the prisoners can protect themselves against infection using the condoms made available to them. For some weeks now, they’ve also been able to go for anonymous and voluntary testing, and to obtain counselling before and after. At the same time, any sexually transmissible diseases can be treated and HIV-positive prisoners can receive treatment for opportunistic infections.”

Under its programme for civilians affected by AIDS, the ICRC regularly supplies medicines to hospitals and h ealth centres for the treatment of STDs and opportunistic infections. The ICRC is also assisting with the supply of equipment to protect medical personnel from infection.