California Should Adopt Legislation Permitting Condom Distribution in Prisons, Opinion Piece Says
Although preventing HIV transmission has been a "major goal of most governmental agencies for many years," prison and jail administrators have been "missing in action," San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Therefore, California should adopt a bill (AB 1677) -- scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday before the state Assembly's Committee on Public Safety -- that permits condom distribution by health professionals in the state prison system, Hennessey says. Jails and prisons are a "natural place" to provide prevention education because the "majority of prisoners are at extremely high risk" of contracting HIV, Hennessey says, adding that many engage in commercial sex work, are or have been injection drug users or are from low-income and minority communities in which HIV transmission "remains high." In addition, although "no one really likes to talk about it," sex "happens in jails and prisons," Hennessey adds. As a result, the government has a "legal obligation to protect the prisoners it incarcerates from harm and to prevent unhealthy conditions," Hennessey says, adding that perhaps even more compelling is the fact that about 90% of all prisoners -- approximately two million nationwide -- eventually "return to our communities, resume relations with spouses and lovers and use taxpayer-funded public health services to treat catastrophic health conditions such as AIDS." Hennessey concludes, "What a wasted opportunity if we send them back without the knowledge of how to protect themselves and their loved ones from this deadly affliction. Or worse, that our inaction contributes to their infection while in our custody and then adds to the deadly toll on our country" (Hennessey, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.