Commentary & Opinion
U.S. Has "Moral, Medical Obligation" to Fight HIV/AIDS Among Prisoners by Providing Condoms, Opinion Piece Says
September 7, 2004
The United States has a "moral and medical obligation" to combat the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among prison inmates and the community at large, and one way to do this is to provide free condoms in jails and prisons, columnist Brent Staples writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The "overwhelming majority" of U.S. prisons and jails do not allow condoms to be distributed to inmates, even though research shows that inmates say that 44% of people they knew in prison participated in sex acts while incarcerated, Staples says. "The hyperbole and exaggeration surrounding the 'down low' has taken the public health debate in a counterproductive direction," Staples says, adding, "It has spread paranoia and pushed a much-needed discussion about bisexual behavior further underground" and "has kept the country from focusing on the long-neglected connection between HIV and the prison system." Men who have sex with men in prison and then return to unprotected heterosexual behavior when they are released pose an "enormous threat" to women, Staples says. Approximately 17% of people living with AIDS in the United States "pass through" jails or prisons annually, Staples says. Data on sex in prisons "cries out" for an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy that includes all of the country's jails and prisons, Staples says, concluding that "at a minimum," inmates should be given "free and open" access to condoms (Staples, New York Times, 9/7).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.