Youth Offenders Engage in HIV Risk Behaviors, Study Says
A majority of the children and teenagers in the U.S. juvenile justice system say that they have engaged in behaviors that put them at risk of contracting HIV, including having sex without a condom or receiving tattoos with "potentially" dirty needles, according to a survey published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Heath, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Linda Teplin, a legal health expert at Northwestern University, and colleagues interviewed 800 youth offenders between the ages of 10 and 18 who were detained at the Cook County Temporary Detention Center in Chicago about their sexual experiences and drug use. Researchers found that 95 of the juvenile detainees said that they had "at some point" engaged in at least three HIV risk behaviors, and about 66% said they had engaged in 10 or more risk behaviors. The survey also found that "very few" participants reported using injection drugs or sharing needles, Reuters Health reports. Teplin said that while most of the survey responses were not "surpris[ing]," they were still somewhat "alarming," adding, "Once these kids are back in the community they may continue with behavior that causes the disease to spread. They do not stay in jail for very long." Teplin and colleagues called for corrections officials to pay increased attention to HIV/AIDS prevention education. Teplin said, "These kids may be too busy skipping school to learn about HIV, and they don't have much parental support in their lives. The best chance to educate these kids may actually be in prison" (Sabo, Reuters Health, 5/29).
Women in Prison
HIV prevalence among women in prisons is almost four times higher than it is in the general population, according to a new guide released by the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families. The report, "Serving Women in the Corrections System Through Ryan White CARE Act Programs," states that 3.6% of women in federal or state correctional systems are HIV-positive, compared with 2% of male prisoners. David Harvey, executive director of the AIDS Alliance, said, "Reaching women in prison can help end the cycle of addiction and HIV transmission," adding, "Prison provides a critical time in which we can get women diagnosed and/or connected to care. Because many women come out of the correctional system, there is a significant benefit for public health when these women know their status and are in treatment" (AACYF release, 5/29).