The 7th of April 2021 is World Health Day, and with sexual and reproductive health being such an integral part of our overall operation, we’d like to celebrate certain campaigns which are quintessentially ‘TackleAfrica’.
TackleAfrica has been delivering health information to Zambian correctional facilities since 2018 and has since expanded to detention centres in both Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Prison health is a major issue throughout Africa, and HIV cases within correctional facilities are on the rise. An Avert study showed that – on average – prisoners are five times more likely to be living with HIV.
There are numerous reasons HIV risk is increasing amongst prison inmates, including:
- Sharing needles for drug use and tattooing
- Unavailability of Condoms
- Rape, sexual violence and unsafe sex
- Punitive laws and overcrowding
- Denial of access to treatment and prevention services
HIV prevention and harm reduction programmes can decrease the risk of HIV transmission among prisoners, but they aren’t readily available for most.
Once contracted, antiretroviral treatment can restrict the spread and control the health connotations of HIV. For prisoners living with HIV, adherence to antiretroviral treatment is often difficult and the everyday stresses of living in incarceration can compromise an already weakened immune system, leading to poor health and risk of co-infections.
In the past five years, the Zambian Prison Service has campaigned to reduce the HIV prevalence rate amongst men who have sex with men.
This came after Percy Chato, commissioner of Zambian correctional facilities, said that service data (as of November 2015) showed that 10% of 3,008 surveyed male prisoners were living with HIV.
In the coming years, TackleAfrica began working in various Zambian correctional facilities, in partnership with VSO and the Zambian Correctional Service (ZCS). Over the years, the popularity of football has helped us to reach out to people of many different backgrounds, and it has proved just as productive in engaging African prison inmates.
TackleAfrica has become part of the Prison Health Advisory Committee (PHAC), in Zambia, with many other partners working in prison health. This involves the attendance of fortnightly meetings to consider prison health issues in different regions, and discuss programme planning alongside the Zambian Correctional Service.
The successes of our involvement in Zambian prison health later welcomed the branching-out of projects to Malawi and Zimbabwe in 2019; this time in co-operation with VSO and the local prison services: Zimbabwe Prison/Correctional Service and Malawi Prison Service.
TackleAfrica has been educating inmates and officers on HIV and sexual health whilst teaching them to lead courses which provide information through football. We intend to use sport as a tool to inspire whilst bypassing discrimination and stigma, therefore offering better options to marginalised groups.
Our sessions touch on cultural matters and challenge ideologies such as assigned stereotypes/roles to genders or sexualities which can lead to inequality and in turn make access to health services and information difficult for certain groups, whilst also fuelling long running oppression.
These specific projects have reached out to over 1000 inmates – male, female and juvenile – allowing them to benefit from HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services via the beautiful game.
We are extremely proud of these programmes and everyone involved from top to bottom, and hope to continue passing on valuable health information to inmates of African correctional facilities for as long as it’s needed.