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Chicago AIDS Advocate Denied Medication While in Jail

July 5, 2011

"I just want to ensure that this doesn't happen to anyone else," says Arick Buckles about his experience last fall when he was denied HIV medication for a week while he was imprisoned in a southern Illinois jail.

Arick Buckles, well known AIDS advocate and employee of the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center, was detained in the Bureau County Jail in Princeton, IL last fall after he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for forgery charges stemming from events in his distant past.

Buckles said he "stressed to every jailer I came into contact with" that he was HIV-positive and needed to take antiretroviral medication daily, according to a June 23 story in the Chicago Sun-Times. But he did not receive medication or see a doctor during his week-long stay at the jail, and jail officials allegedly told Buckles they could not give him his medication because of the cost of the drugs, a rationale that is "inappropriate and unconstitutional," according to the American Civil Liberties Union in a letter they wrote to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson.

Thompson declined to comment on the allegations, saying, "I have not had a chance to review the complaint."

According to the Sun-Times, formal study of the issue hasn't been done, but in the past year there have been at least 16 federal lawsuits filed nationwide in which HIV-positive inmates claimed they were denied treatment, said attorney John A. Knight, of the ACLU's Roger Baldwin Foundation. Both the ACLU of Illinois and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago said they have received periodic complaints about HIV-positive inmates being denied potentially life-saving drugs.

"He [Buckles] had really good friends and family members on the outside who documented this problem and were able to advocate for him," John Peller of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago told the Sun-Times. He added that when this kind of thing happens to most people, "it's a hidden problem that nobody finds out about."

The Illinois Department of Corrections is investigating Buckles' case, according to a department spokeswoman.

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