Texas Prison System Holds Educational Conference for Inmates on HIV/AIDS, Infectious Diseases
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and AIDS Foundation Houston on Wednesday held a conference to educate state prisoners about HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, the Houston Chronicle reports. More than 125 inmates from 16 state prison units attended the conference, the "first of its kind" in the nation. The Department of Criminal Justice, which proposed the educational opportunity to AIDS Foundation Houston in 1997, hopes that the prisoners, who volunteered to be peer educators, will pass on the information from the conference to other inmates and to people they meet after release, thereby reducing the number of new HIV cases in the "outside world." The program is "in the whole community's interest," John Miles, a retired CDC official who attended the conference, said. The inmates said that ignorance about HIV/AIDS is "widespread," but the response to HIV/AIDS education opportunities has been "enthusiastic," the Chronicle reports. Prisoners at Wednesday's conference attended 40 hours of classroom training on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis prior to the meeting. AIDS Foundation Houston CEO Michael Mizwa said the prison system, although it does not provide inmates with condoms, "deserves credit" for teaming up with his organization to "educate inmates and thereby increase their chances of success once they are released." Dr. Michael Kelley, head of preventive medicine for the prison system, said, "The likelihood of us being able to distribute condoms in the system right now is pretty small. It's not politically acceptable." The HIV prevalence rate in prisons is higher than the rate outside of prison. The Texas prison system this year has released 575 HIV-positive prisoners, according to the Chronicle (Olafson, Houston Chronicle, 7/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.