Inmate AIDS Test Bill Designed to Educate; Florida's Inmates Rank Second in Cases
April 23, 2002
Legislation that makes HIV testing mandatory for inmates leaving Florida prisons aims to stop the virus' spread to the inmates' partners outside prison. The purpose of the bill -- pressed last month by state Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Miami), and several other black and Hispanic lawmakers from South Florida -- is to educate inmates about the virus and their health status. Wilson, who fought unsuccessfully for the bill during the two previous sessions, said the measure is aimed at slowing the rate of infection, especially in minority communities. Blacks and Hispanics make up the majority of Florida's prison population.Adapted from:
According to the CDC, blacks and Hispanics account for 62 percent of the total AIDS cases reported in the state. Florida ranks third behind New York and California in the number of cases dating back to 1981. Under Wilson's bill, male and female inmates would be tested 60 days before their prison release date. Those testing positive would receive 30 days worth of medication, as well as education on preventing the spread of the virus. They also would get names of health care and service providers in the cities where they plan to settle. The results of the positive tests would be given only to the inmate, the Department of Health and the Health Department of the county where the released inmate will live. Test results would be placed in the inmate's medical records.
The bill has not been sent to Gov. Jeb Bush, but Wilson is optimistic. During the session, Bush asked for and got an amendment that limits the state's liability in administering the tests. If signed into law, the testing measure will take effect in September. The state estimates 26,000 inmates will be released from Florida prisons within the next year. The Legislature appropriated $793,244 for medical costs for HIV/AIDS testing and related care, although the Department of Corrections (DOC) requested $1.4 million. DOC records show that the AIDS rate in state prisons is 12 times higher than in the general population. Among female prisoners, the rate is 60 times higher than that for women on the outside.
04.21.02; Andrea Robinson
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.