Female Inmates at High Risk for HIV; Jail Offers Opportunity for HIV/AIDS Education
Many females inmates are at "great risk" for acquiring HIV, and jail may offer an opportunity to educate these women about HIV/AIDS prevention, according to a Northwestern University study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Reuters Health reports. Among the inmates, those with mental illness had the "most extreme" sexual risk behaviors. In addition, non-Hispanic whites, older inmates, drug users and women arrested for nonviolent crimes indicated they engaged in high-risk behaviors that put them at risk of contracting HIV. Lead author Dr. Gary McClelland and colleagues privately interviewed 948 women incarcerated at the Cook County Department of Corrections between 1991 and 1993 (Reuters Health, 5/16). The women were also participating in a larger study of psychiatric disorders among incarcerated women.
Target Less Serious Offenders
Interviewers gathered information regarding the inmates' sexual history, sexual practices, criminal history and drug use practices (McClelland et al., American Journal of Public Health, May 2002). Almost one-third of the women reported that they never used protection during sexual intercourse (Reuters Health, 5/16). Nearly half of Hispanic women reported that they never used protection. In addition, 10% of non-Hispanic white women reported having 100 or more sexual partners within the last year. Non-Hispanic whites also had a higher injection drug use rate (41.9%) than the overall average among the subjects (18.8%). Older inmates were more likely to be injection drug users (AJPH, May 2002). Overall, 9% of the women reported that they had shared needles while injecting drugs. According to the study, HIV/AIDS education should "begin -- but not end" -- with women incarcerated for less serious offenses because they have the highest HIV/AIDS risk and will be released into the community the quickest. "We have found that these women are at great risk for HIV infection, and most will return to the community within days of arrest," McClelland said, adding, "For these reasons, interventions targeting AIDS risk behaviors among women in jail will reduce AIDS in the community" (Reuters Health, 5/16).