Louisiana Parish Jail Staffer: We Don't Test Prisoners for HIV Because 'We Cannot Afford to Treat'
April 29, 2016
Louisiana has one of the higher rates of new HIV infections in the U.S., as well as an above-average rate of incarceration, the report says. As of year-end 2015, 49.3% of the 36,377 inmates in Louisiana correctional facilities were held in local jails, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Louisiana State University hospitals with HIV clinics that used to treat inmates have been partially privatized. As a result, they no longer offer subsidized treatment to inmates, as well as poor or uninsured patients, Human Rights Watch explains.
Even those who know their HIV status when entering jail are often left without access to their own antiretroviral medications. Joyce Tosten, for example, did not have access to her medications for three days, then was told to call her mother to bring her antiretrovirals to the jail. However, in a video accompanying the report, she notes that she was not permitted phone privileges, so she was unable to make that call. Another former inmate, Marvin Aguillard, had to wait for 44 days before receiving his first HIV medication. During that time he developed resistance to that antiretroviral, resulting in severe diarrhea and vomiting. Even then he was unable to access medical care, seeing a doctor only upon his release seven months after his initial incarceration.
"It is imperative that Louisiana parish jails implement a routine HIV testing program for inmates and make sure that they have a system for connecting that person, if they test positive, to care in the community," concludes the report's author, Megan McLemore.
Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.
Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.
Copyright © 2016 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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