North Carolina Should Not Ignore ‘Legal, Moral’ Responsibility To Provide HIV Testing, Treatment to Inmates, Editorial Says
Although some civil rights groups that are "pressing" the North Carolina Legislature to pass a bill that would mandate HIV testing for prison inmates might be overstating HIV prevalence in prisons, their "point shouldn't be missed" because the "fact is, consensual and forced sex behind bars ... helps spread the disease," a Raleigh News & Observer editorial says.
According to the editorial, "few" inmates in North Carolina participate in the state's voluntary HIV testing program, but "most inmates eventually get out of prison" and can transmit the virus to "unsuspecting" people. In addition, surveys have found that "ex-inmates are spreading the virus at an alarming rate among women," the editorial says. The "cost of testing and treatment," estimated to be about $21 million annually, "seems to be a main reason why North Carolina has declined" to implement a mandatory testing program for inmates, the editorial says, adding that "from a public policy standpoint, the approach is counterproductive."
The state covers the cost of treatment for most HIV-positive people and can either "address the problem in prisons now" by mandating HIV testing and "stem the spread of new cases by treating inmates," or "it can pay later," the News & Observer says. The editorial adds that the state "shouldn't ignore its legal and moral responsibility" to provide treatment to HIV-positive inmates. Although "[w]ell-run prisons" are "one front against" the spread of HIV, mandatory HIV testing "needs to be part of the state's public health strategy, in light of both budgetary prudence and the duty to take reasonable care" of inmates, the editorial concludes (Raleigh News & Observer, 4/17).