Mandatory HIV Testing in North Carolina Prisons Will Not Stem Spread of Virus, Opinion Piece Says
Given that HIV/AIDS prevalence among prison inmates in North Carolina is "several-fold higher than that of the general population," mandatory HIV testing "of inmates on face value seems attractive," David Wohl -- associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina Center for Infectious Diseases and co-director of HIV Services for the Department of Correction -- and David Rosen of the UNC School of Medicine write it a Raleigh News & Observer opinion piece. According to the authors, requiring individuals to undergo HIV tests denies them "basic autonomy that should not be lost with incarceration."
The majority of "incoming" HIV-positive inmates are aware of their status and "return to the same main sexual partners they had before incarceration" after they are released, Wohl and Rosen write. They add that mandatory testing exacerbates stigma surrounding the disease and disregards data that have found an "extremely high acceptance of voluntary HIV screening when the benefits of testing are explained and the risks of testing minimized." In addition, there is "no evidence that mandatory HIV testing of prisoners results in a reduction in HIV transmission," the authors write, adding that several Southern states require such testing and "yet continue to see increases in the rate of new" HIV cases. Proposals from some North Carolina lawmakers to require HIV testing prior to release from prison are "particularly troubling," Wohl and Rosen write, adding that such an approach "only passes the buck" to communities that are "often straining to deliver HIV services."
Wohl and Rosen write that although HIV testing in correctional settings needs to be improved, CDC recommendations that say HIV tests should become a routine part of medical care would be a more "reasonable" approach to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to the authors, this approach would respect individuals' rights to make their own decisions about HIV testing and would "not stop at the prison gate" (Wohl/Rosen, Raleigh News & Observer, 4/23).