Prison Time Among Black Males Might Account for Rise in Number of HIV/AIDS Cases Among Blacks, Study Says
The recent increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among blacks coincides with an increase in the proportion of black men who are incarcerated, according to a study released last year, the Washington Post reports. Rucker Johnson and Steven Raphael from the University of California-Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy examined U.S. census information and a federal database containing detailed information about 850,000 HIV-positive men and women who contracted the disease between 1982 and 1996. According to government data, in 1982 about 40% of prisoners were black, and in 1996 more than 50% were black. The researchers found that the increase of HIV/AIDS cases among blacks since the 1980s, most notably among women, corresponds with the increase in the proportion of black men in prison (Morin, Washington Post, 3/9). The researchers write that the "higher incarceration rates among black males over this period explain a substantial share of the racial disparity in AIDS infection" (Johnson/Raphael, "The Effects of Male Incarceration Dynamics on AIDS Infection Rates Among African-American Women and Men," July 2005). "So powerful is the relationship between race, prison and [HIV/]AIDS that it almost completely explains why half of all new AIDS patients in 2002 were [blacks] even though only 12% of the population is black," according to the Post. The Post reports that other studies show about half of all inmates have sexual relations with members of the same sex, and programs needed to help control the spread of HIV/AIDS in prisons are not allowed in many prisons. "[I]t's illegal to distribute condoms in prisons in all but one state," Johnson said, adding that lawmakers fear it would encourage same-sex relations (Washington Post, 3/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.