Interview opportunity prior to the International AIDS Conference 2012 in Washington, 22 – 27 July

AIDS: 'Prisons act as incubating grounds'

Bonn/Eschborn, When lots of people live together in close proximity, the risk of catching infectious diseases is high. This is particularly true of prisons. That’s why the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which is engaged on behalf of the German Development Ministry in the fight against AIDS, is working in prisons in Cameroon.

'We are working in Cameroon's ten largest jails, thereby reaching almost half of the country's 23,000 prisoners', says Jürgen Noeske, who is responsible for GIZ's prison work. 'An average of 4.3% of the general population in Cameroon are HIV positive. In prisons this figure is a third higher.'

The work falls into three categories: prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The subject of AIDS is tackled very openly. 'To prevent the disease spreading and educate prisoners we train peer educators, who include both prison staff and inmates', explains Noeske. 'They strike the right note with their peers and have greater credibility'. GIZ advisors work with these multipliers to create educational modules specially tailored for the inmates, explaining for example why it's important to get tested for the virus, how to protect yourself and what happens to you when you test positive. The peer educators often organise themselves into self-help groups, and some of them are infected themselves.

Anyone new to the prison is openly encouraged to have a voluntary AIDS test. This is for their own safety and also that of other inmates. 95% of prisoners do get tested. 85,000 such tests were carried out last year in the prisons with which GIZ is cooperating. Noeske says they have succeeded in getting the country's health system working in prisons. Not only does this mean that HIV testing and laboratory investigations are free of charge, but prisoners also get free treatment if they are infected. 'By working in prisons we are making a major contribution to stemming the spread of AIDS in Cameroon', asserts Noeske.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations. We support the German Government in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Through our work we assist people and societies in shaping their own futures and improving living conditions.

If you would like to interview GIZ expert Jürgen Noeske, please phone the press office on 0049 6196-79-1177 to make an appointment.