Chile: HIV Positive Prisoners Die While the State Continues to Deny Them Medical Care

Despite the diligent work of Centro Lambda Chile, gay inmates who are HIV positive continue to face inhuman conditions during their imprisonment in Santiago penitentiaries. The authorities have abandoned these prisoners and refuse to respond to the demands from Centro Lambda Chile that they receive adequate medical care either within the prison hospitals or in other public health facilities when necessary. Homosexual and transvesti prisoners who are HIV positive are being held in complete isolation from the general prison population in Santiago. None of them is receiving antiretroviral medications or medical attention for opportunistic diseases.

This grave situation is not new. Back in September of 1996, Centro Lambda Chile filed the first in a series of demands, requesting improvements in the conditions of confinement of all homosexual and transvesti inmates as well as immediate medical attention for those who need it. Following the submission of this demand to prison authorities, the prisoners where transported to Colina II prison and 10 needles where used to perform the Elisa test on 37 inmates despite repeat warnings that some of the inmates were HIV positive. Of the original group of claimants, two have died since the filing of the case in 1996. Various other legal actions have been brought against the penal system in an attempt to get medical treatment and dignified living conditions for these prisoners.

Currently Chilean activists fear that inmates will continue to die if they do not receive the necessary medical attention. Gay prisoners who are now isolated in a section called Calle 3 (3rd Street) are unable to work during their confinement because this section does not include the infrastructure for them to do so. Therefore they have no way of generating resources. At the same time all inmates are charged US$30 to receive tests which are free in all city hospitals. While the prison authorities continue to tell the media that all prisoners receive adequate medical care, the testimony of the prisoners presents a different picture. Reportedly on the few occasions when inmates have been examined, they are lined up single file, naked in a wet and ill-smelling corridor, and are then submitted to a cursory review after which they receive no prescriptions or medicines. Every time inmates have infections, they are treated with penicillin, without any consideration to the effect it may have on their already compromised immune system.

Centro Lambda Chile and MOVILH (Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual - Movement for Homosexual Liberation) have in recent weeks met with penal officials and they strongly believe that international pressure and their local lobbying and legal efforts are responsible for this outreach from the penal authorities. However in order for these efforts to result in concrete improvements in the lives of these inmates, Chilean activists request that urgent letters be sent to the appropriate authorities demanding that all HIV positive prisoners be treated with dignity and respect and that they receive medical care appropriate to their health status.

Letters should be sent to:

Señor Alex Figueroa
Ministerio de Salud
Mack Iver 541
Santiago, Chile
Fax: (56-2) 632-2405
[Ministry of Health]
E-mail: info@minsal.cl
Señora Soledad Alvear
Ministerio de Justicia
[Ministry of Justice]
Morandé 107
Santiago, Chile
Fax: (56-2) 695-4588
Email: minju@reuna.cl
Señor Mario Morales Mondaca
Dirección Nacional de Gendarmería
Rosas 1274
Santiago - Chile
Fax: (56-2) 671-4936
Fax: (56-2) 695-5709

Please send copies of your letters to IGLHRC and to:

Centro Lambda Chile
Casilla Postal 53575
Centro de Casillas de Santiago
Santiago de Chile
Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual (MOVILH)
Casilla 52834, Correo Central
Santiago
CHILE
Fax: 56-2-633-5234
Email: movilh@entelchile.net