Baton Rouge Advocate Looks at Prison Project That Educates HIV-Positive Inmates Being Discharged From Louisiana Correctional Facilities
The Baton Rouge Advocate on Sunday examined the Prison Project, a relatively new joint state and federal program aimed at educating HIV-positive inmates about the disease before they leave prison -- the "first collaborative effort of its kind." The project helps inmates set up medical appointments with health care workers outside of prison to continue their treatment and offers to match them with case workers. Although plans for the program had been discussed for approximately five years, it began to "gain momentum" in 2002. The program does not monitor HIV-positive inmates, who -- under Louisiana state law -- do not have to disclose their infection status to anyone. All inmates in either of two state intake facilities receive an "hours-long" HIV/AIDS peer counseling program conducted by trained prison inmates. Inmates at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, one of five facilities that participate in the Prison Project, are then "encourage[d]" by their peer counselors to be tested for HIV if they have "engaged in risky behavior." Inmates are also offered support groups, library books and other educational materials about the disease. In addition to Hunt, Louisiana State Penitentiary, East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women and the Dixon Correctional Institute participate in the project. Officials plan to take the project statewide if it is deemed successful, according to the Advocate. Susan Wible, the program's statewide coordinator, said, "For the first time in a long time we brought everyone to the table. So when inmate Joe walks out of prison, there's a safety net for him" (Wold, Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.