While prisons house a number a social outcast, misfits and some all around dangerous people, they face a number of problems as well. The prison agencies are taking steps to deal with health threats from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The Justice Department reported that twenty-two thousand four hundred eighty state and federal inmates were infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. Another issue prisons are facing is dealing with geriatric offenders; the significant expansion of America’s retiree population has led to an increase in the number of elderly people who are behind bars. Mentally ill inmates make up another group with social needs; some are neurotic or have personality problems, which increase tensions in prison. Prisons provide a part of the answer to the question of crime control; they also face problems of their own.
The incidence of HIV infection among the general population stands at one hundred-forty cases per one hundred thousand, according to a great report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among inmates, estimates place the reported HIV-infection rate at five hundred-ten cases per one hundred thousand—more than three times as great. At one point, AIDS was the leading cause of death among prison inmates. Presently, the number of inmates who die from AID (or AIDS-related complications like pneumonia or Kaposi’s sarcoma) is much lower. The introduction of drugs like protease inhibitors and useful combinations of antiretroviral therapies has reduced inmate deaths from AIDS by seventy-five percent since 1995. Most infected inmates brought the HIV virus into prison with them; fewer than ten percent of HIV-positive acquired the virus into prison. The virus can be spread behind bars through homosexual activity (including rape), intravenous drug use, and the sharing of tainted tattoo and hypodermic needles. Inmates who were infected before entering...
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