Prisons Should Make Condoms Available To Prevent Spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, Editorial Says
U.S. prison officials have a "special duty" to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among the more than 11 million people who spend time in the prison system each year, because about one-third of U.S. residents who have hepatitis C and 15% of individuals with AIDS are incarcerated in any given year, a New York Times editorial says. Currently, 95% of U.S. prisons ban the distribution of or do not make available condoms to inmates, according to the Times. However, according to a 2002 survey of U.S. prisoners, inmates estimated that about 44% of prisoners probably participate in "sex acts" while imprisoned, the Times reports. In addition, researchers estimate that about 70% of people who have sex while in prison had their first same-sex partner while incarcerated, according to the Times. "If those estimates are anywhere near accurate, the risk of infection behind bars is substantial, and the men who contract HIV in prison return home to infect wives and girlfriends," the editorial says. "Distributing condoms does not encourage sex in prison -- that appears to be going on anyway," the Times says, concluding, "On the contrary, jurisdictions that adopt such programs tend to keep and build upon them," and "[c]orrections officers usually support the programs once they have been proved effective" (New York Times, 4/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.