Interventions to address HIV in prisons: Prevention of sexual transmission
Evidence for action technical paper
It is challenging to obtain reliable data on the prevalence of sexual activities in prisons because of the many methodological, logistical and ethical challenges of undertaking a study of sexual activity in prisons. Sex – with the exception of authorized conjugal visits – violates prison regulations and sexual behaviour involves identity issues that often provoke feelings of shame and fear of homophobic violence from other prisoners. Many prisoners decline to participate in studies because they claim not to have engaged in any high-risk behaviour. This can result in the low generalizabilty of results and underreporting. Prisoners who do participate may underestimate the incidence of sex because they are concerned with possible repercussions from fellow prisoners and correctional officers. They may be too embarrassed to admit to engaging in same-sex sexual activity for fear of being labelled as weak or gay, and they may fear punitive measures.