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Monday, September 04, 2006

HIV and Prisoners Release

Editor:

Although HIV/AIDS prevention and education is a primary focus for health educators in community and school settings, relatively little attention has been focused upon the need for a comprehensive health education program within the prison setting. The number of incarcerated persons has nearly doubled in the past ten years with inmates being admitted and released in greater numbers than ever. The statistics supporting the need for intervention are alarming.
· According to a 1992 study, the number of AIDS cases in state or federal prisons reached 195 per 100,000, as compared to 18 per 100,000 for the general population.
· Only six prison systems were found to distribute condoms.
· A 1992 study found people entering correctional facilities had a median infection
rate of 1.7% with rates for women reaching 20.6%, rates for homosexual/bisexual men as high as 34.5%, and rates for Intravenous Drug Users (IDU’s) an astounding 43.1%.
· A study of Latino inmates released from a California state prison found 51% reported having sex in the first 12 hours after being released.
· State and local health departments provide HIV testing and counseling in approximately 430 correctional facilities in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia; however, health education and prevention programs are offered in only 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Despite the constitutional right to full health care and the great need exhibited by the above statistics, the majority of prisons do not provide health education aimed at the HIV/AIDS epidemic, nor is there a concerted effort by the Health Education community to meet the demand for properly trained personnel capable of working with an inmate population and relevant curriculum targeted to a prison setting.
After having worked in a state prison as a drug treatment counselor, I have seen first hand the devastation of HIV/AIDS upon the prison population in this country as at least 10-15% of my clients reported having AIDS. These are perhaps the less innocent victims of AIDS, but their suffering is real, the impact of their release into the community is real, and their deaths are real.

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