Settlement Reached in Class-Action Lawsuit Over Treatment of HIV-Positive Alabama Inmates
The Alabama Department of Corrections, Birmingham-based NaphCare -- the prison system's former medical contractor -- and plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit over the medical care and living conditions for HIV-positive inmates at the Athens, Ala., Limestone Correctional Facility are scheduled to sign a settlement on Wednesday, the Montgomery Advertiser reports (Montgomery Advertiser, 5/25). The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights in August 2003 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 2003 by the center against the Department of Corrections and NaphCare. The 125-page report provided a detailed case summary of the deaths of 38 HIV-positive inmates between 1999 and 2002 and concluded that the unit's medical care system was substandard. According to the report, in nearly all of the 38 deaths, "death was preceded by a failure to provide proper medical care or treatment" and "preventable illnesses" caused all of the deaths. In addition, the report 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, 10/27/03). The Department of Corrections since then has changed medical providers, and department officials and wardens have said that housing and treatment of HIV-positive prisoners is "up to par," according to the Associated Press. Representatives from the Southern Center for Human Rights said they would not comment on the settlement until after it is signed on Wednesday. Prison system spokesperson Brian Corbett also said the department also would wait to comment, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 5/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.