AIDS in Prisons
May 21, 2001
"Tens of thousands of prisoners around the country are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, making prisons one of the most potentially dangerous incubators of the epidemic," began the editors. Such a concentration of HIV-infected prisoners "means that healthy inmates run an increased risk of catching the disease by having sex or sharing hypodermic needles with them -- behaviors that are illegal but widespread in American prisons." But most prisons "ignore these risks" and do not provide "adequate tools to slow the spread of the virus. Only a few prison and jail systems in the country offer condoms for safer sex or bleach to disinfect needles. This is shortsighted. Officials should not only work to reduce prisoners' risk of catching AIDS in prison, they should also help a captive audience learn about safer practices in a way that would stick when the inmates returned to the community," asserted the editors. Although "the amount of AIDS transmission in prison is unknown... there is anecdotal evidence that people have gotten HIV in prison, and it is very likely that the number is high," the editors wrote. One Tennessee study "found that 28 percent of inmates reported injecting drugs in prison. Since needles are rare behind prison walls, they are almost always shared, accelerating the spread of AIDS," they wrote. The editors also pointed to consensual homosexual behavior and forcible sex as modes of HIV transmission among prisoners.Adapted from:
"Education about AIDS prevention is often not done in a way that resonates with prisoners, and such programs need to be linked with health care on the outside so that patients on antiretroviral drugs continue their treatment. ...Prison offers the opportunity to give these high-risk people the medical care and AIDS education they will not get once outside," the editors concluded.
New York Times
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.