New York Lawmakers Propose Distribution of Condoms in Prisons to Slow Transmission of HIV
Two New York state Assembly members have proposed legislation (AB 11149) that would allow state prisons to distribute condoms "in hopes of stemming the spread of" HIV in prisons, the New York Daily News reports. Although sexual contact between prisoners is forbidden, it happens "regularly," bill co-sponsors Richard Gottfried (D), Assembly Health Committee chair, and Jeff Aubry (D), Corrections Committee chair, said, adding that the measure is "good public health policy." According to advocates from Ounce of Prevention, a group that seeks to help the public become aware of preventive care issues through a variety of educational and screening services, a one-month supply of antiretroviral drugs for one HIV-positive prisoner would cost the prison $1,000, while 1,000 condoms would cost only $75.
Will it Find Support?
The bill is opposed by some observers such as Mike Long, who heads the state's Conservative Party. He said, "Taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on condoms so inmates can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Prisons should not be hotels." But Gottfried said that the "controversial" nature of the legislation "doesn't mean it won't pass." Gov. George Pataki (R), who last year increased prison health care spending by 46%, supported legislation that allowed hypodermic needles to be sold without a prescription, which made the bill's backers "optimistic" that Pataki would support the condom distribution proposal. "He showed extraordinary courage on the needle legislation. He understood it was life-saving public health policy. The same is true here," Gottfried said. However, Pataki "wants to deal with medical treatment, and not the politics of medical treatment," James Flateau, a spokesperson for the state prison system, said, noting that the state Department of Correctional Services does not support the legislation. New York has "one of the highest concentrations" of HIV-positive prisoners nationwide. An estimated 7,100 of the state's 65,000 incarcerated residents are HIV-positive, according to the New York AIDS Coalition (Mahoney, New York Daily News, 4/27).