Parirenyatwa told the state-owned Herald newspaper this week that the prevalence of HIV and Aids showed that people were jailed while already infected or that there was rampant homosexuality behind bars.
“The rise of HIV prevalence in prisons shows that it is either these prisoners are infected already before they get into prison and if not then it means homosexuality is rampant in prisons,” Parirenyatwa was quoted as saying.
Statistics reveal that HIV prevalence among Zimbabwean prisoners is at 28%.
Parirenyatwa said it was important for the government to address the prevalence of HIV and Aids in prisons.
He said although Zimbabwe had its own cultural expectations, the country could not run away from the idea that homosexuality “is happening in our prisons”.
Debate on homosexuality
President Robert Mugabe has always expressed his disgust over homosexuality, describing homosexuals as being worse than pigs and dogs.
Parirenyatwa said the government was going to engage with partners in the health sector and open up debate on homosexuality in prisons in order to save lives.
In response, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said although they welcomed Parirenyatwa’s attitude towards opening a debate on homosexuality, the group believed that the issue of HIV and Aids in prisons had nothing to do with homosexuality.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, GALZ director Chesterfield Samba said it was more of a “practical health rights issue” and it required government’s commitment.
Samba suggested that long periods of detention in terrible prison conditions forced males to engage in sexual activities with each other.
He added that overcrowding in prisons was also worsening the conditions of inmates living with HIV and those infected with TB.
Samba also said that by refusing to make condoms available in prisons, the government was encouraging the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. – News24