Condoms for prisoners urged to combat Aids

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The Independent Online
CONDOMS should be issued to male prisoners in all jails in England and Wales in an attempt to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids, government advisers have recommended in a confidential report, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

A Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed that the recommendation was made by the Prison Service Aids Advisory Committee in a report being considered by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary. It adds weight to a similar suggestion by Sir Donald Acheson, the former chief medical officer, now chairman of the Prison Service Health Advisory Committee.

If accepted, the proposal would mark a significant shift in government policy. Ministers have previously ruled out issuing condoms because they do not want to condone an illegal act.

Until recently, the Home Office said homosexual acts in prison were illegal because the 1967 Sexual Offences Act allowed such acts only between adults over 21 and 'in a private place'. The age will be lowered to 18 in the autumn. Officials now argue that it is a moot point legally whether in all circumstances prisons are private or public places. The Scottish Prison Service is maintaining that homosexual acts in prison are illegal. Home Office statistics for June show 45 prisoners in England and Wales are infected with HIV or diagnosed as having Aids; 42 are men.

Sheila Gore, senior statistician in the Medical Research Council's unit in Cambridge, said: 'I hope the recommendation is approved and that other harm-reduction measures besides condoms are taken, such as . . . maintenance programmes in prisons for drugs injectors.'

Drugs cocktail hope, page 6