HIV, Hepatitis C Rates in Massachusetts Prisons Among Highest in United States, Report Says
October 20, 2003
The HIV and hepatitis C prevalence rates in Massachusetts prisons are among the highest in the United States, according to a study scheduled to be released this week by the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the Boston Globe reports. According to the report, Massachusetts prisons have the seventh-highest HIV prevalence rate in the country, and 27% of men and 44% of women entering the state's prison system are infected with hepatitis C, according to the Globe. The high disease prevalence rates make state prisons "incubators of illnesses," and public health officials are concerned that inmates will spread the viruses to "disadvantaged" communities when they are released, according to the Globe. Public health advocates have called for medical care improvements for parolees and have urged the prison system to continue treatment after inmates are released. "You just can't take a group of people and segregate them off to a no man's land when you know within a period of time they're coming back," Lyn Levy, executive director of SPAN, an organization devoted to reintegrating freed inmates into communities, said. Levy added, "[I]t behooves us to provide prisoners when they're in custody and when they get out with consistent treatment." The report does not detail possible causes for the high disease prevalence rates in prisons, but disease specialists theorized that injection drug use is a likely cause, according to the Globe. "Substance abuse is clearly the predominant risk factor," Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state's director of communicable disease control, said, adding, "And if you look at the pattern of imprisonment in this country over the years, drug crimes are drawing longer and longer sentences."
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.