Hundreds of convicts who are incarcerated and those who have been released could be caught in a “predicament” as a result of tattoos, which expose prisoners to HIV/AIDs infections.
The smuggling of objects used for tattoo making in Botswana Prisons is rife, fuelling fears that the art of tattoo making that has become a ritual for prisoners poses a high risk to prisoners.
The Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDs (BONELA) admitted this week that they have overlooked the issue of tattoo making, which they say could be a clear case of exposure; they promised that there is need to close the gap that exists to reduce cases of new infections.
The Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders Chairman, Mothei Sejakgomo, admitted in an interview that the making of tattoos expose prisoners to new infections of HIV/AIDs.
Sejakgomo, who is a former convict, said that the art of making tattoos was not the only activity that he feared could pose a risk of new infections for prisoners.
“The instruments, such as needles that are used for making tattoos, are smuggled in to prisons and are shared among the prisoners,” Sejakgomo said. “They sometimes try to sterilise the needles after making tattoos but we are not quite sure if this exercise can deter the new infection. Those of us who have been there are aware of this issue that puts prisoners at risk of being exposed to new infections.
Even the machines and razors that they are using could also put them at risk.”
He said that it is easy to smuggle the objects in to the prisons.
“When they make tattoos, they use burned tyres powders to inject themselves and apply burned tyre ashes to make permanent features of the tattoo of their choice. And when they do this they share the needles and we fear that without monitoring and educating them, we will continue to have new infections in prisons. Some of the needles are brought by some convicts who are doing courses, such as upholstery, at the prison. There is a need for education to curb the spread of HIV/AIDs because people come here without HIV/AIDs but when they leave the prisons they are HIV positive,” he said.
Sejakgomo said that they have approached the Botswana Prisons Service to sensitise prisoners about the dangers of tattoo making in prisons. He noted that they have engaged Ditshwanelo and BONELA to continue sensitising prisoners about the dangers of sharing sharp objects when making tattoos.
BONELA admitted that the tattoo making pose a high risk of HIV/AIDs new infections in prison.
BONELA Director, Uyapo Ndadi, admitted that they have not been actively involved in raising awareness about the dangers of using sharp objects, such as needles. in tattoo making.
BONELA commented after the Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders had stated that they feared that the tattoo making was exposing hundreds of prisoners to HIV/AIDs.
Ndadi said that the issue was a clear case of exposure to inmates, which needs urgent attention. He said he had called a meeting with the Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders to share information relating to tattoo making.
However, the Botswana Prisons Service’s Colonel Silas Motlalekgosi maintained that the Prisons Act deemed some objects, such as the ones used for tattoo making, as unauthorised objects in prisons. He said that anyone who is found in possession of such instruments will be charged.
Motlalekgosi disputed that most of the prisoners were into tattoo making, saying that tattoos are a latest trend that should not be associated with convicted prisoners.