AIDS Spreading In Senegalese Prisons

Picture 20Senegal, with its Sufi Muslim majority, has one of the lowest incidences of AIDS in Africa, largely due to successful condom and needle distribution progrms. But the disease is rampant among gay men, with infection rates as high as 22%, according to AIDSAlliance — and according to Catholic Online, the disease is spreading unchecked in the nation's prisons.

The reasons are religious, naturally. A Catholic Online reporter asked Assane Balde, the chief medical officer at Camp Penal, one of Sengal's largest prisons, whether free needles and condoms might be made available to inmates. (Yes, it's a weird question for a Catholic reporter to ask, but never mind.) From Catholic Online:

… Balde is steadfastly opposed. He says they do not have problems with hard drugs and a condom distribution program would simply not be tolerated.

"Our religion doesn't permit this," Balde says. "We are Muslims, and as Muslims we don't like seeing that. There is no tolerance for this type of behavior. It's a taboo subject, and we don't even talk about it."

In nearby Ivory Coast, a recent study of a prison found that 28% of inmates are HIV positive, while the infection rate in the general population is just 7%. In South Africa, where the general infection rate is 12%, rates of infection in prisons are 40 – 45%. There is no mandatory testing in Senegalese prisons, so although it's known that prisoners are becoming ill in increasing numbers, no statistics are available. But if even Senegalese medical officers refuse to discuss the issue, the numbers, whatever they are, can only get worse.


  1. Caliban says

    “The reasons are religious, naturally.”

    That pretty much says it all right there. First they deny there IS a problem because their religion doesn’t allow it. Then when they CAN’T deny there’s a problem any longer they can’t solve it because the solution isn’t allowed by their religion either.

    Not that US prisons are much better. How many prisons allow condom distribution? Sex between inmates “isn’t allowed” so distributing condoms would be an admission that it happens anyway. Denial that the issue exists prevents confronting it honestly or effectively.

    One is religious blindness, the other is institutional, bureaucratic blindness but the result is the same.

  2. Mark says

    something’s confusing though – they have a general condom distribution program for the public & that’s not an issue w/ the Muslims?

  3. jason says

    AIDSAlliance seems to be contributing to the homophobic notion that AIDS is a gay illness. We don’t need this sort of politically motivated – and false – notion out there. AIDSAlliance ought to be ashamed of itself.

    As for these infection rates, they are mostly made up. They are invented figures designed to push a political view point.

  4. GregV says

    The AIDSAlliance actually says that rates are around 21.5%among Senegalese “Men who have Sex with Men,” not “gay men,” per se. It is likely that very few of those men identify as gay.
    Besides that, though, quoting any percentage of either “Men who have Sex with Men” or of “Gay men” accurately in a repressed society such as Senegal is absolutely impossible. How did theorganization ever imagine it could determine the denominator of that equation where both gay men and MSM’s are very unsafe answering questions honestly?

  5. jason says

    Men who have sex with men is not the cause of HIV. To suggest so is completely homophobic. There is nothing special about men having anal sex with men that distinguishes it from men having anal sex with women.

    I know that we like to be important but to connect the cause of HIV to anal sex between men simply plays into the hands of the homophobes of this world.

  6. Rob says

    @Jason Actually you’re wrong, anal sex between men who have sex with men is more likely to spread HIV than anal sex between heterosexual couples. While it is possible for bottoms (or women) to transmit HIV to men (or tops,) it is far more likely that a top would pass on HIV to a bottom partner. Since women can really only “bottom,” if they have HIV they are less likely to pass it on to their male partners. With men, however, the “bottom” can go on to later top other men, increasing the odds of their HIV being passed on to others. Statistically, two men are more likely to pass on HIV compared to a HIV positive man and woman.

    I’m gay and I don’t mean to say that gay sex is bad obviously, but it doesn’t change the fact the transmission of STIs is different based on different sexual positions. Unfortunately the odds work against men who have sex with men in this case.

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