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HIV Among Incarcerated Populations

July 22, 2015

Fast Facts
  • HIV is a serious health issue for correctional facilities and their incarcerated populations.
  • Most incarcerated people with HIV got the virus before entering a correctional facility.
  • HIV testing at a correctional facility may be the first time incarcerated people are tested and diagnosed with HIV.


HIV Among Incarcerated Populations

More than 2 million people in the United States are incarcerated in federal, state, and local correctional facilities on any given day. In 2010, the rate of diagnosed HIV infection among inmates in state and federal prisons was more than five times greater than the rate among people who were not incarcerated. Most inmates with HIV acquire it in their communities, before they are incarcerated.


The Numbers


Prevention Challenges

HIV Among Incarcerated Populations


What CDC Is Doing

Funding state, local, and territorial health departments. This is CDC's largest investment in HIV prevention. CDC funds health departments and community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide HIV prevention services in many settings, including prisons and jails.

Funding community-based pilot projects. CDC has joined with universities, CBOs, and other partners to find out which HIV prevention interventions are most effective among incarcerated populations and how they can be applied to other settings.

Voluntary rapid HIV testing. CDC partnered with Emory University to support voluntary rapid HIV testing at a large county jail located in a community with a high prevalence of HIV. The jail's nursing staff provided more than 12,000 tests, and 52 cases of HIV infection were newly diagnosed.

CDC has published HIV testing guidance for correctional facilities which recommends testing inmates when they enter correctional facilities, during incarceration, and just prior to release. CDC also recommends medical treatment and counseling to educate inmates about HIV risk behaviors. HIV prevention education should address male to male sex, tattooing, injection drug use, and other high risk behaviors that occur during and after incarceration.

CDC recommends that condom distribution programs be evaluated for use in prisons and jails in the United States. The World Health Organization recommends such programs as an effective way to reduce HIV among incarcerated populations.

The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, (NCHHSTP) Corrections Workgroup addresses the prevention and control of HIV, STDs, Viral hepatitis, and TB among incarcerated people. The workgroup includes experts in epidemiology, criminology, and corrections issues, and works to reduce health disparities among incarcerated populations.

CDC scientists edited a special issue of the journal Women & Health, "Infectious and Other Disease Morbidity and Health Equity among Incarcerated Adolescent and Adult Women," in November 2014, which focused on the health challenges, including HIV, faced by incarcerated women.


Other Resources




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