California County Public Health Director Proposes HIV Testing for Prison Parolees
Alameda County, Calif., Public Health Director Arnold Perkins has proposed a plan to test paroled inmates for HIV before they move to the county to address rising rates of HIV infection, especially among low-income women, the Oakland Tribune reports. Under Perkins' proposal, prison inmates would be tested for HIV before they are released, and health department counselors would inform HIV-positive inmates about prevention, care and treatment, the Tribune reports. Perkins declined to discuss how the plan would be implemented, how much it would cost and who would cover the costs, but he said that his staff will begin to research the proposal and likely will have details within the next three or four months, according to the Tribune. In 2003, 5,352 male inmates were paroled to Alameda County, according to the California Department of Corrections, the Tribune reports. Margot Bach, spokesperson for the department, said that the program might not comply with confidentiality laws. "We can't even test [inmates] mandatorily in prison," she said, adding, "The only thing inmates and staff are required to be tested for each year is tuberculosis. But as far as other testing, we're not allowed to do it." However, Perkins said, "The infection rates among females are often caused by men who have been on the down low in prison. This is a national phenomenon, men returning from prison having engaged in sexual activity but not talking about it and passing that infection onto unknowing women" (Maitre, Oakland Tribune, 8/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.