Homeland Security Department Provides Inadequate Care, Treatment to HIV-Positive People at Immigration Detention Centers, Report Says
The Department of Homeland Security provides inadequate care and treatment to HIV-positive detainees at immigration detention centers nationwide, according to a report released recently by Human Rights Watch, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the report was released in response to the death of an HIV-positive inmate at a San Pedro, Calif., detention center (Griggs, Los Angeles Times, 12/8).
Victor Arellano -- who was transgender and went by the name Victoria -- allegedly was denied vital medical care at the San Pedro center. Attorneys for Arellano's family say that while in custody, Arellano's condition deteriorated to the point that fellow detainees urged staff to provide medical care. Roman Silberfeld, the family's attorney, said that 70 detainees signed a petition urging that Arellano receive medical attention. When Arellano's condition became critical, Arellano was transferred to a San Pedro hospital and died several days later (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29).
For the 71-page report, Megan McLemore of HRW interviewed current and former detainees, as well as Homeland Security and detention facility officials in Alabama, California, New Jersey, Virginia and other states, the Times reports. The report found that the "medical care in three types of facilities, representing nine states, was delayed, interrupted or inconsistent," McLemore said. Other findings included a failure to:
- Provide complete antiretroviral regimens consistently, thereby increasing the chance of drug resistance;
- Prescribe prophylactic medications to prevent opportunistic infections; and
- Ensure continuity of care when detainees were transferred to other facilities (Los Angeles Times, 12/8).
The "U.S. government has no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV or AIDS, how many need treatment and how many are receiving the care that is necessary," McLemore said. She added that DHS "needs to upgrade their policies and more closely monitor and ensure effective treatment for immigrants living with HIV or AIDS. ... Otherwise these individuals will continue to suffer, and even die, in the care of the U.S. government" (AFP/Google.com, 12/8).
Virginia Kice, spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency has not fully reviewed the report but generally disagrees with its findings. She added, "Ensuring the welfare and safety of those in our custody is one of our top priorities" (AP/Google.com, 12/8). According to the Times, government or privately contracted facilities house about 30,000 undocumented immigrants daily (Los Angeles Times, 12/8).
The report is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.