Prison Offenders with AIDS
Offenders living behind the walls of prison with AIDS is like the big pink elephant in prison, it is colossal but conspicuously avoided. In other words the disease's presence is apparent, but a great deal of ignorance is still pervasive. Offenders living with HIV are still unfairly treated, which they try keep their status concealed, and justifiably so due to the treatment of the guards or other inmates. Over 27,000 people entered NYC prisons in 2002 and approximately 28,000 were released. In addition, while the average prisoner serves less than five years, more than 50% of ex-prisoners commit crimes again within three years. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that men and women are entering the system infected with HIV and, due to the long period of incarceration, are leaving prison without even knowing they are infected. Under these circumstances, HIV is being spread unwittingly by those who make irresponsible decisions. The number of inmates with HIV in prison is increasing as a consequence, and more infected individuals are being released back into their communities, because in many respects prison is a revolving door of infectious diseases. According to CDC report authored by Dr. Robert Greifinger, formally the Department of Correction's chief medical officer, and cited by Fox Butterfield in a New York Times article "Infections in Newly Released Inmates Are Rising Concern" dated January 28, 2003, an inordinate number of inmates are leaving prison with one infectious disease or another. In 1996 alone, 1.3 million release’s had hepatitis C; 155,000 had hepatitis B; 12,000 had tuberculosis; 98,000 had HIV; and 39,000 had AIDS. Indeed, the medical department is known for its ineptness and its indifference to prisoners' medical needs, such as for a death, serious ailment, or late diagnosis of a terminal illness, to the medical department. Problems with HIV/AIDS in prison seem to parallel those in the community. However, since they are the people we are suppose to lock up and throw away the key, not much interest is paid to the problems of prisoners, as if dodging them will make them disappear and prevent them from resurfacing in the community. Improving the lives of inmates living with HIV in prison is important. Addressing the treatment of prisoners in general is, however, a prerequisite to achieving this objective. But with rehabilitation abandoned and prison sentences intended purely for punishment, improving the treatment of prisoners seems nowadays to be a low priority. (1),(2),(4)
The characteristics of an offender living with AIDS and the challenges the face in prison are worst then if they were out in the free world. In prisons across the world, the HIV and AIDS epidemic presents a major challenge. HIV prevalence within prisons is often far higher than in the general community, and prisons are a high-risk environment for HIV transmission. However, when it comes to tackling the epidemic, prisoners are often neglected and overlooked. Prevention programs that have been shown to reduce HIV transmission are rarely available for inmates, and many prisoners with HIV are unable to access life-saving antiviral treatment. In many parts of the world prison conditions are far from satisfactory and HIV positive inmates barely receive the most basic healthcare and food. When it comes to HIV testing, some prison authorities enforce mandatory testing, which is often seen as a breach of human rights. These issues are not confined to male prisoners; due to the high proportion of injecting drug users within prisons, female inmates have also been severely affected by HIV and AIDS. Injecting drug use and incarceration are closely linked; many IDU'S pass through the correctional system because of drug-related offenses. As IDU'S are at a greater risk of HIV infection there tends to be an over-representation of HIV infected IDU'S among incarcerated populations. This...
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