Commentary & Opinion
Michigan Legislature Should Approve Bill Mandating HIV Testing for Prisoners Prior to Release, Editorial Says
August 14, 2003
The Michigan Legislature should approve a bill (SB 640) that authorizes mandatory HIV testing of prison inmates before they are released, according to a Detroit Free Press editorial (Detroit Free Press, 8/13). Under the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Samuel Thomas (D), prisoners would be tested no earlier than 60 days before their release and all positive results would be reported to the Department of Community Health (SB 640 text, 8/13). According to the Free Press, the state estimates that 1% of Michigan prison inmates are HIV-positive; however, "without comprehensive testing, corrections officials don't really know [the actual figures]." The Michigan Department of Corrections currently administers HIV tests to inmates entering prison but does not test inmates who are being released, a policy that "isn't good enough" because it "misses anyone who contracts AIDS in prison" and anyone who was infected with HIV shortly before being incarcerated, according to the editorial. Although inmates can request an HIV test every six months, "stigma and lack of knowledge" may prevent them from undergoing testing; therefore, lawmakers should "requir[e] a test upon release," which would give "parolees some help in getting treatment in the community" and "provide a needed safeguard," the editorial says. The state would have to pay about $200,000 to test the approximately 11,000 inmates released each year, which is a "small price" to pay to prevent released inmates from spreading HIV in the community, the Free Press concludes (Detroit Free Press, 8/13).
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.