About 21,000 KwaZulu-Natal prisoners and 4000 correctional services staff will receive HIV counselling and testing, the provincial correctional services department said on Wednesday.
"Our target is to counsel and test at least 50% of our staff and also counsel and test at least 21,000 of the offenders in our care," the corrections services regional commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele said in a statement.
KwaZulu-Natal's prisons had about 30,000 inmates and 8000 staff.
On Wednesday a HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign was launched at the Pietermaritzburg New Prison.
The correctional services department had six accredited antiretroviral sites - the new Qalakabusha, Westville, Ngcome, Pietermaritzburg and two Kokstad prisons.
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo commended the prisons department for its "bold step" and challenged it to increase the numbers it tested.
Most prisoners returned to society, and any disease contracted in prison became a public health matter.
"This relationship between prison health and overall public health is fundamental. Reducing the transmission of HIV in prisons is an important element in reducing the spread of infection in the broader society," Dhlomo said in a statement."
It was essential that all staff received regular training, education, and support on HIV/Aids-related issues, he said. - (Sapa, June 2010)