Chile – Chilean prisoners loose more than their freedom


Although we lack of special studies, HIV prevalence in Chilean prisons is higher than that of the general population. A report of the General Comptroller of Chile reveals shortcomings in the promotion of health, prevention and care of HIV within the Chilean prisons.

As in many other countries, HIV prevalence in Chilean prisons is greater than that of the general population. Overcrowding and violence in prisons combined with the lack of standard sanitary conditions, adequate food and comprehensive medical services extend the vulnerability of this population in relation to various diseases, including HIV, hepatitis B, other STIs; and recently, an outbreak of tuberculosis.

Many prisoners may not be aware of their HIV status, which significantly hinders the access to health services. In addition, not all prison facilities offer HIV testing. According to a recent report by the General Comptroller of Chile, which states that not all prisoners are tested for HIV, even though they [prison’s authorities] know, prisoners are a vulnerable population.

For those deprived of liberty, the main difficulty on the access to health services is the non-confidentiality about their diagnosis. In this sense, the report recognizes that confidentiality is protected under the AIDS law; a standard that is referred to citizens who are free and not deprived of freedom. This situation is aggravated by the absence of a regulation that makes applicable the guarantees stated in the AIDS law in Chile.

The State of Chile has launched a set of concession prison projects; however, deficiencies and defects have institutionalized. Currently two prison regimes coexist, none of which has been able to respond to the humanitarian crisis in prisons.

Violence inside of prisons facilities shows alarming figures. In the year 2012, 255 complaints due to rape were received, and there were 225 cases of people with HIV. These figures, widely questioned, do not reflect the reality, since we lack of prevalence studies and monitoring of public policies.

A good Government must concern about the needs of the weaker members of society. In this sense, a paradigm shift is necessary to build a society that respects diversity. This helps not only prevent injustices, but also promote social justice, which goes beyond mere protection to vulnerable groups.

Chilean society has to foster an attitude of acceptance and understanding for the life and dignity of each of its members, aimed at building a society capable of prioritizing the collective good above social and political individualism.