HIV an emerging concern in Central Visayas jails – BJMP

MANILA, Philippines – Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is an emerging concern for jails in Central Visayas, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) said on Wednesday, November 13.

"Region VII (Central Visayas) has the most number (of HIV) kasi nung nakipag-communicate kami sa Region VII, sa community nila prevalent din because of the use of injectable drugs," said Paul Borlongan, medical officer of BJMP national headquarters, on the sidelines of the  Asia Pacific Conference on Prison Health organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Borlongan said they are addressing the issue of HIV in Region VII with the help of the Department of Health (DOH) and the local government units (LGUs).

World Health Organization (WHO) technical officer Thomas Hiatt said that "in some settings," HIV prevalence is 15 times higher than in the general population.

"The estimated global HIV prevalence among prisoners is 3%, in some settings the HIV prevalence in prisons is 15 times higher than in the general population," said Hiatt.

Hiatt said overcrowding, poor ventilation, weak nutrition and inadequate medical care contribute to high prevalence of HIV inside prisons. (READ: 1 prisoner dies in Bilibid every day, says new chief doctor)

HIV is among WHO's top concerns for jail facilities as Hiatt said "prisoners suffer a disproportionate burden of health problems."

Other top concerns are tuberculosis and mental health.

Mental health

Hiatt also said that on the global average, the prevalence of mental health issues among prisoners is "considerably higher than in the community."

"Studies have shown that suicide rates in prisons are up to 10 times higher than those of the general population," said Hiatt.

"Mental health issues are exacerbated by violence, enforced solitude, or reversely, lack of privacy, lack of meaningful activity, isolation," Hiatt added.

Borlongan said that there are only two psychiatrists attending to the 478 facilities under the BJMP or an equivalent of 136,000 prisoners.

"For mental health, right now, there is an initial meeting with DOH also about the pharmacology or pharmacotherapy of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) to provide us with medicine with regards to mental health particularly for PDL right now," added Borlongan. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.