U.S. Should Focus on HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Black Inmates, Editorial Says
"Risky drug use and unprotected sex" in the U.S. prison system create a "friendly environment" for the spread of HIV among African Americans, who are jailed in "disproportionate numbers" and "suffer disproportionately," a Roanoke Times editorial says (Roanoke Times, 8/15). More than half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur among African Americans, and African-American women account for 72% of new HIV cases among U.S. women. Of the almost 2.1 million people currently incarcerated nationwide, 40% are African-American. Many inmates enter prisons -- where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is at least three times higher than in the general population -- already HIV-positive. High-risk behaviors, including injection drug use and unprotected sex, often go unaddressed in prisons; condom distribution is banned in most state correctional facilities; and drug addiction goes untreated. Such policies lead to an exponential increase of HIV transmission both inside and outside of prison (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). The "twin plagues of imprisonment and HIV/AIDS track each other," according to the Times. Therefore, the United States should "give priority" to drug prevention and treatment rather than "excessively" punishing people who use illicit narcotics, the editorial says. In addition, the United States should "devote more resources and attention" to reintegrating newly released African-American inmates into their communities, the editorial says. Prisons cannot "contain the diseases that grow inside their walls" because inmates "carry whatever ills they have out into the general population" upon release, the editorial says, concluding that the United States should modify its correctional system for the "very reason it has been making sentences steadily more severe: to protect society" (Roanoke Times, 8/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.