The Durban High Court ruled on Thursday in favour of a group of South African prisoners with HIV that the Westville prisons department must immediately remove restrictions on free access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) treatment for the prisoners.
The case was brought on behalf of 15 inmates by advocate, Andrea Gabriel, who represented the prisoners and the Treatment Action Campaign stated that the prison authorities were failing to meet treatment plans as the Westville Prison's, with appointment schedules being allowed for only one prisoner a day to receive pre-treatment counselling.
The court has asked that the Department of Correctional Services to provide an affidavit to the court by 7 July about the steps that were being taken to make treatment available to all Westville prisoners who wanted and needed treatment.
Members of the Treatment Action Campaign, which supported the application by the prisoners, have said, "All other prisons should take note of this judgment and take similar measures to remove all restrictions to accessing antiretroviral treatment to prisoners who want and need this life-saving medical intervention."
It was reported that most of the 15 prisoners have already started displaying a CD-4 count, which is the clinical way of determining the degree of immune system damage caused due to HIV and is the considered the level when the ARV treatment should normally begin.
It was also explained that before the judgement the prisoners had to pay for treatment. Many of the prisoners had also staged a hunger strike to draw attention to their plight and the governments, lack of action towards their application. The government had opposed the application, stating that it was working to resolve the situation and so the prisoners should wait.