The effect of sentencing HIV-positive offenders to imprisonment.
Manyathi, Linda Lydia.
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South African correctional centres are overcrowded. There is high-risk sexual behaviour and a lack of nutritious diet, all of which contributes to increasing THE level of stress among inmates. This negatively affects the immune system. These correctional centre conditions are harsh, even to HIV-negative inmates, how much more SO to those who are HIV-positive. The typical lifespan of an HIV-positive person is 10 to 15 years, though, with the aid of ARVs, it can be prolonged. However, in order for ARVs to be effective one must exercise and eat a balanced diet. Re-infection, lack of exercise, lack of nutritious meals and high stress significantly reduce the effectiveness of ARVs. Therefore, offenders who are known to be HIV-positive and are then sentenced to life imprisonment are less likely to serve their full sentence. With overcrowding, HIV-related illnesses easily spread to other inmates and, to make matters worse, high-risk sexual behaviour increases the possibility of infection to HIV-negative inmates. The Correctional Services Act provides that correctional institutions should make provision for: adequate accommodation, nutritious meals, segregation of inmates for medical reasons, safe custody, hygienic living conditions and health care. But, with the prevailing correctional centre conditions of overcrowding, malnutrition, lack of exercise and sexual abuse, it is clear that the Department is failing to deliver on the mandates given to it by the Correctional Services Act. The result of this is that imprisonment for HIV-positive offenders becomes a very difficult experience, as overcrowding leads to low security, bed-sharing and the survival of the fittest. Overcrowding further gives power to gang activities within the correctional centres, because the conditions of low security require that inmates provide their own security, which is paid for at the cost of sexual favours and tattoos which may involve contaminated blades. This exposes other inmates to HIV infection and those who are already infected become re-infected. Sentencing offenders that are known to be HIV-positive to imprisonment promotes the spread of HIV within correctional centres and into the general public. South Africa has the highest HIV infection rate in the whole world. The United States is looked at for possible solutions for curbing the spread of HIV, as there is no sentence that will suit such offenders. This dissertation seeks to investigate possible measures that can be implemented in South African correctional centres to ensure that the spread of HIV in correctional centres is limited.