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Behind prison walls: HIV vulnerability of female Filipino prisoners

Diana M. Palma (Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)
Jennifer Parr (Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 26 February 2019

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019




The imprisoned population is increasing worldwide and is overrepresented in the HIV epidemic. The purpose of this paper is to explore the HIV vulnerability of female Filipinos who are pre-trial prisoners, as the specific needs of imprisoned women are poorly understood and fewer resources are granted to pre-trial detainees, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).


This study was based on a Qualitative Descriptive Design. In total, 18 semi-structured interviews were conducted with prisoners and NGO directors. Data were analysed through Framework Analysis, using the individual, social and community categories of the Modified Socio-Ecological Model.


Results from this study suggest that the prison environment and management practices maximise the HIV vulnerability in the sample. This vulnerability is shaped by low HIV knowledge, combined with the existence of multiple social vulnerabilities prior to incarceration.

Social implications

HIV care in Filipino prisons needs urgent attention from government and international organisations, as it is a major public health and human rights concern. International goals of ending the epidemic by 2030 cannot be reached if efforts are not translated into action within this setting.


In the Philippines, few studies have addressed this issue and little is known about the conditions of Filipino prisons. This paper aims to fill a gap in literature regarding the vulnerability of imprisoned women in LMICs, which is even more limited in examining pre-trial detention.



The authors thank every woman who participated in this study for sharing their stories, including the NGO directors who were open to tell about their work experience in the Philippines. The authors want to express wholehearted gratitude to the leader of the host organisation for believing in the social and practical relevance of this research and for providing a welcoming environment for conducting fieldwork. The authors also acknowledge the amazing job performed by the translator who worked with the same enthusiasm as the authors did to retrieve the data.


Palma, D.M. and Parr, J. (2019), "Behind prison walls: HIV vulnerability of female Filipino prisoners", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 232-243.



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