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Florida: Palm Beach County Wants to Test All Jail Inmates for HIV

July 14, 2003

Palm Beach County commissioners want state law changed to force every county jail inmate to undergo an HIV test. Under a plan discussed July 8, prisoners would be tested regardless of whether they had been convicted of any crimes.

Mandatory HIV testing of inmates is a priority of Commissioner Addie Greene, who sees it as a way to stem the spread of the disease, particularly among minority groups. Others questioned whether the idea would do anything besides cost money. Cost estimates were not immediately available.

"Mandatory HIV testing is wrong," said Ruth Gottlieb, chair of the Palm Beach County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She also questioned whether jail testing would achieve Greene's goal of increasing minority testing because, "In the county jail, you're only dealing with a small percentage of the minority community." Between 45,000 and 50,000 people a year are booked into the jail. Up to 70 percent of inmates are awaiting trial, said Dr. L. Diana Cunningham, executive director of the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission.

Glenn Krabec, immediate past chair of the county HIV Care Council, said mandatory testing of people convicted of crimes probably would be a good idea, but testing of everyone before conviction would not. But HCC Program Director Gerald Adams said he was "absolutely" in favor of testing everyone who enters the jail.

County Health Department Director Dr. Jean Malecki declined to say whether she would support mandatory jail testing. Sheriff's spokesperson Paul Miller said the issue would need extensive study and noted, "A lot of these people have been arrested for misdemeanors. They may only be in our custody and control for hours."

A few commissioners briefly acknowledged such concerns. Still, commissioners unanimously approved Greene's idea of asking the Legislature to pass a mandatory jail testing law.

Back to other news for July 14, 2003

Adapted from:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
07.09.03; Anthony Man

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.
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