Kentucky: Prisons Urged to Treat HIV/AIDS
May 14, 2007
On Thursday, Dr. Felipe Arias, the statewide HIV medical director for the Pennsylvania prison system, told a Kentucky HIV/AIDS conference about the challenges of treating HIV in prison. Arias said jails are a prime location to make an impact on HIV, as research has shown that some 25 percent of all HIV-positive people pass through a correctional facility at least once.
Arias said Pennsylvania's system conducts, at intake, non-mandatory HIV testing and mandatory testing for hepatitis C. The system offers treatment to hepatitis C patients who are expected to be incarcerated for at least 20 months, a typical length of time for a treatment regimen. Pennsylvania state prisoners are also treated with whatever HIV medications are deemed the most effective, regardless of price, he said.
In Kentucky's most recent legislative session, Sen. Dan Seum (R-Fairdale) introduced Senate Bill 201, which would have required the state Department of Corrections to test inmates for HIV no less than 30 days before their release. The bill was never enacted. Sen. Daniel Mongiardo (D-Hazard) offered an amendment that would have mandated testing within 30 days of penitentiary intake.
Sigga Jagne, Kentucky's state HIV/AIDS program branch manager, said some Kentucky jails and prisons do voluntary HIV testing, but there is no set standard. "Kentucky is so far behind in that area," Jagne said. "There's no testing, no required testing or even optional testing in many places."
Arias said treating prisoners can be difficult: They might not participate in support groups; they have a constitutional right to refuse treatment; and they might not want to adhere strictly to a drug regimen. Arias said inmates also tend to have high rates of mental illness, which can complicate treatment.
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