August 9, 2006
Inmates in Wisconsin, Florida, New York and Louisiana recently took part in a CDC-funded study to determine the merits of rapid-result HIV testing in jails. In Wisconsin, the tests were made available at Milwaukee House of Correction in Franklin and Rock County Jail in Janesville. More than 31,000 inmates in the four states were tested, said Robin MacGowan, a CDC project officer.
Testing in short-stay jails may help find undiagnosed HIV cases, experts say. According to a study by Ted Hammett of the research firm ABT Associates, almost 25 percent of people with HIV will pass through a correctional facility at some point.
Twelve of the 4,500 inmates tested in Milwaukee and Rock counties were HIV-positive, for a rate of 0.27 percent -- well below the rate of 1.1 percent found in the combined results for the 13 testing sites in all four states.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health received a $389,000 grant from CDC to run the testing outreach at the two facilities, said Jim Vergeront, director of the state AIDS program. Wisconsin hired STD Specialties, which has performed traditional HIV testing in the Milwaukee County Jail since 2000, to run the outreach. Staff provided counseling and follow-up during inmates' incarceration and offered case management services to HIV-positive persons upon release. Inmates' written consent was required for the testing, which was voluntary and confidential but not anonymous.
Upon release, HIV-positive persons received a $50 stipend to cover transportation expenses associated with seeking treatment. STD Specialties' personnel met with HIV-positive clients three and six months after diagnosis, and the state Health Department surveyed patients to assess their ability to access care.
"It's gotten much easier for the patient," STD Specialties Executive Director Casey Reilly said of rapid-result versus conventional HIV testing. "Some people wouldn't get tested because they couldn't stand the anxiety."