New York Times Examines Lawsuit Over Medical Care for HIV-Positive Alabama Prison Inmates
The New York Times on Sunday examined a federal class-action lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of HIV-positive inmates at Limestone Correctional Facility in Alabama, the only state in the country that segregates HIV-positive inmates from other inmates (Liptak, New York Times, 10/26). The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights in August released a report on the medical treatment and living conditions of the 300-person HIV unit at Limestone as part of the lawsuit, Leatherwood et al. v. Campbell, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in March by the center against the Alabama Department of Corrections and Birmingham-based NaphCare, the prison system's medical contractor. The 125-page report, written by Dr. Stephen Tabet, an infectious disease expert, provides a detailed case summary of the deaths of 38 HIV-positive inmates between 1999 and 2002 and concludes that the unit's medical care system is substandard. Tabet in the report says that in nearly all of the 38 deaths he investigated, the "death was preceded by a failure to provide proper medical care or treatment" and that all of the deaths were caused by "preventable illnesses." In addition, Tabet said that the "overcrowded" side-by-side, head-to-toe bunk beds of the facility "placed these immune-compromised patients and the staff at an undue risk of acquiring contagious diseases" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29). HIV-positive inmates until recently were housed in a "vast converted warehouse," the Times reports. This month, all of the facility's 237 inmates were moved into new two-person units, which lawyers for the prisoners said is a victory in reducing the spread of infectious diseases. However, many other problems remain, including a lack of access to antiretroviral drugs, the lawyers said. Prison officials declined to comment for the article, according to the Times (New York Times, 10/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.