Florida: Broward, Palm Beach County Inmates' HIV Care Under Scrutiny
August 23, 2007
According to their attorneys and advocates, some HIV-positive jail inmates in Broward and Palm Beach counties are being prevented from accessing their AIDS drugs for weeks or even months.
"Delaying the delivery of ongoing HIV medication is completely unacceptable," said Dr. Ron Shansky, a board member of the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, which accredits the jails in Broward and Palm Beach.
"For people on the cusp [of AIDS], a delay of more than a few days may push them into illness," said Dr. Larry Bush, a local HIV specialist.
In Broward, public defenders said at least 15 HIV-positive inmates had filed complaints of drug delays this year, and more cases are suspected. Since July 1, judges have released four prisoners who had waited as long as four months for treatment.
The sheriffs in both counties have hired Miami-based Armor Correctional Health Services to treat their 120,000 inmates, 3 percent of whom are HIV-positive. The contract is worth $38 million a year. Spokespersons for the sheriffs referred inquiries to Armor and said they have heard few, if any, complaints about jail health care.
"Our policy is to continue their medications without interruption whenever possible, and we do that," said Dr. John May, who directs medical care in the eight Florida counties where Armor has contracts. Some delays, he said, occur when inmates refuse treatment, have special problems, are uncooperative or have previously interrupted treatment. Some public defenders, May said, are exaggerating reports of delays to secure an early release for clients; attorneys denied this.
Dr. Ann Spaulding, a corrections health expert at Emory University, said the law does not dictate how much health care jails must furnish: It states only that they must not intentionally neglect serious illness.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
08.21.2007; Bob Lamendola
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.