New York Times Editorial on Prison Health Care and HIV Prompts Responses from Community
A May 21 New York Times editorial stated that New York state prisons are "one of the most potentially dangerous incubators of the AIDS epidemic" and called the lack of precautions taken and medical care provided in prisons "shortsighted." Responding to the editorial, Jennifer Wynn, director of the Prison Visiting Project for the Correctional Association of New York, writes that problems with medical care in prison are the result of a "lack of outside oversight," "insufficient state salaries that result in chronic staffing shortages" and the "hiring of unqualified medical personnel." Prison health facilities are neither overseen nor regulated by the state Department of Health, Wynn states, but legislators have introduced several bills to improve prison health care by putting "accountability measures" into effect and increasing the salaries of medical personnel. Until such measures are enacted, prison medical services remain a "public health concern," she concludes (Wynn, New York Times, 5/28). Christine Epifania, director of programs for Exponents, an agency that helps people with AIDS and drug problems, writes that the "main barrier to HIV prevention and education in prison is the prioritization of security and control over the health concerns of inmates." The use of drug abuse- and AIDS-prevention programs run by independent community-based organizations has been "decreased" in state prisons because of such concerns, even though such programs are the "[m]ost effective" way to control AIDS and drug abuse, she writes. Epifania states that her experience conducting support groups at Rikers Island demonstrated that inmates who took part in the groups were able to go back to their cells and "educate others" in a way that program workers could not. The program was a "true partnership of peer and professional," she concludes (Epifania, New York Times, 5/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.