Louisiana: HIV/AIDS After Prison
January 7, 2003
A new state and federally funded program, Prison Project, allows HIV-positive inmates in Louisiana to leave prison better educated about the disease. It also links them with caseworkers and with medical appointments to continue their treatment.Adapted from:
Officials with the state Department of Corrections and the state Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program say Prison Project is the first collaborative effort of its kind. It was launched last year and involves the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, and the Dixon Correctional Institute. "For the first time in a long time we brought everyone to the table," said Susan Wible, statewide coordinator of Prison Project. "So when inmate Joe walks out of prison, there's a safety net there for him."
Prison Project does not monitor HIV-positive inmates. The program is an option for them prior to leaving prison.
According to the report "HIV in Prisons and Jails, 1999," there were 381 cases of HIV/AIDS among inmates in the custody of state or federal prison authorities in Louisiana at the end of 1999. That is 2.1 percent of the Louisiana prison population.
Dr. Michael Hegmann, medical director at Hunt, said Prison Project serves several purposes. "As medical providers, we want to see our patients continue to receive care," he said. If former inmates are taking care of themselves, there is less turmoil in their lives and they are more likely to stay on the right track and not return to prison.
Hunt uses its position as one of two intake facilities for state prisons to promote awareness about AIDS and other STDs. Every inmate who enters either facility goes through an HIV/AIDS peer counseling program taught by trained inmates. At the end of each presentation, the peer counselors encourage fellow inmates to get tested if they have engaged in risky behavior. In addition, inmates at Hunt receive education about HIV/AIDS through support groups, books and other materials.
Prison Project is still refining its plans and considering how to measure its results. "One of the things we're going to look at in our three-year plan is some evaluation modes," Wible said. However, anecdotal evidence indicates the program is working. A former inmate who returned to the Monroe area was found sitting on the steps of his case manager's office waiting for the doors to open. The man said he got off the bus and went directly to the social service agency.
Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
01.05.03; Amy Wold
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.