Number of AIDS-Related Deaths in Massachusetts Prisons Drops Significantly Since 1995, Experts Say
The number of AIDS-related deaths in Massachusetts prisons has dropped nearly 86% since 1995 due mostly to a decline in the number of inmates with AIDS and improved treatment for the disease, specialists say, the Boston Globe reports. Between 1995 and 2002, the number of prison deaths in the state has declined 50% from 36 to 18, with AIDS-related deaths dropping from 14 to two over the same period, according to statistics from the state Department of Correction and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The advent of antiretroviral drugs is "by far" the largest factor in the drop in prison deaths, according to Arthur Brewer, medical director of the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health, said, the Globe reports. The state DOC spends about $10,000 per HIV-positive inmate each year on antiretroviral drug therapy, according to the Globe. Between 1999 and 2003, DOC spending on medicines overall increased from $6 million to more than $11 million, with $3 million going to antiretroviral therapy for 300 of the state's 9,150 inmates. Dr. Barbara Herbert, who in 1992 served on a committee investigating allegations of inadequate care for HIV-positive inmates at MCI-Framingham, said that the care HIV-positive inmates get in Massachusetts prison "in some cases supersedes the level of care they get out of prison."
Massachusetts' drop in AIDS-related deaths in prisons mirrors nationwide trends, according to the Globe (Stockman, Boston Globe, 9/15). The percentage of deaths in state prisons in the United States due to AIDS-related illnesses in state prisons throughout the United States dropped from 32% in 1995 to 6% in 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. As of the end of 2000, 2.2% of state prison inmates and 0.8% of federal inmates were known to be HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/4). Because HIV prevalence among prison inmates nationwide is more than four times higher than that of the general public, the introduction of antiretroviral drugs has had a more dramatic effect on the rate of AIDS-related deaths among prisoners, according to the Globe (Boston Globe, 9/15).