Texas: Inmates Learn About AIDS at First Conference of Its Kind
July 18, 2002
The Texas prison system does not provide inmates with condoms, but it still wants its 143,000 prisoners to be as educated as possible about AIDS. If there is a paradox there, no one mentioned it Wednesday at the Darrington Prison Unit in Rosharon, where 128 convicts from 16 state prison units gathered to get the latest information about AIDS and other infectious diseases. The conference was the first of its kind in the country, prison officials said.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is hopeful that inmates volunteering to be peer educators will return to their units, and ultimately return to society, passing on the knowledge they have gained. While the number of Texas inmates diagnosed as HIV-positive has declined since 1998, those figures are based on voluntary testing. The infection rate among the prison population remains higher than in the free population. So far this year, the prison system has released 575 convicts who had tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
Ignorance about AIDS is widespread among the prison population, the inmates said, but the response to voluntary education classes at the various institutions is enthusiastic. Michael Mizwa, CEO of AIDS Foundation Houston, said the prison system deserves credit for forming a partnership with private organizations to educate inmates and thereby increase their chances of success once they are released. "We've never brought a free world type of public health HIV conference into the walls of a system and brought this type of information to offender-peer educators," Mizwa said. Before the inmates arrived at the conference, they already had received 40 hours of classroom training. Thirty-five female inmates participated in a two-day conference at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville. Besides HIV/AIDS, the conference provided the latest information on hepatitis and TB and included training on teaching skills.
07.18.02; Steve Olafson
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.