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Jamaica decides not to give out condoms in prisons

Friday, June 30, 2006

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters): Jamaica has decided not to distribute condoms in prisons, where violence has broken out in the past over mere suggestions that men have sex with men in the facilities, an official said on Thursday.

The Jamaican government had been divided over the issue of handing out condoms to prisoners.

The Health Ministry believed condoms would stem the spread of AIDS in penal institutions, but the National Security Ministry, which has responsibility for prisons, disagreed, arguing it would encourage sexual activity.

Both ministries met late Wednesday to settle the matter and an agreement was reached not to distribute condoms, said an official of the National Security Ministry, who asked not be identified.

The ministries said they would issue a statement later.

Giving out condoms in prisons was first suggested by the former head of prisons, John Prescod, in 1997.

But his suggestion triggered a battle between prisoners accused of being homosexual and others who said they were heterosexuals. Five inmates died and 27 were injured in two of the island's six adult penal institutions.

Last week Health Minister Horace Dalley called for condoms to be distributed in prisons to stem the spread of AIDS.

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