A regional corrections official in the Caribbean has said that the incidence of HIV in jails can be reduced by allowing the use of condoms and spousal sex in the prisons.
In an interview with AFP, Marcus Day, adviser to the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prison Services which is meeting here, called for the prisons to allow the use of condoms to slow the transmission of the virus via sex between male inmates.
He also recommended that the prisons allow male prisoners to have sex with their spouses as a means of stemming transmission of HIV within the jails.
"Given our buggery (sodomy) laws, our high levels of homophobia, we have kind of not looked at the scientific evidence about these kind of transmissions and we just ignored it," Day told AFP.
Day attributed the spread of HIV/AIDS infections in prisons to homosexual relationships among otherwise heterosexual men and homosexual rape, situations he said were rife in Caribbean prisons.
The three percent prevalence rate was extrapolated from studies and tests conducted in Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, he said.
There were about 102,000 people in prison across the Caribbean in 2006, according to the World Prison Population List compiled by the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College London.
But the absence of infectious-disease monitoring protocols in most prisons across the region, and refusal by some prisoners to be tested for the virus that causes AIDS, makes a full accounting of the problem difficult.
The St. Lucia-based adviser to the 15-nation Caribbean Community's (Caricom) on Drugs and HIV strongly recommended that condoms be used in the prisons, despite concerns by the religious community that the availability of condoms promotes homosexuality.
"Better than the allowing of condoms in the prison are the allowing of conjugal visits," said Day.
"Allow men to have the women come and visit them in prison and have a private room where they can make love to each other and the desire to have same-sex relationships will be greatly reduced."
He noted that Iran's prisons allow women to visit their husbands in prison.
UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, estimates that the Caribbean has an estimated 500,000 people living with HIV and AIDS.
Experts fear the phenomenon could take a heavy toll on the economies in the region due to loss of human resources and high expenditures on treatment and care.