PRISON INMATES: CDC Announces $7 Million for HIV, STD Prevention
California is one of seven states that will share a $7 million CDC grant aimed at stemming HIV and other STDs among the prison population. California and the six other states -- Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York -- together house 83% of the nation's inmates (Sternberg, USA Today, 10/5). Each will receive between $900,000 and $1.1 million (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/4). The funding is part of $39 million the Congressional Black Caucus obtained to address "a public health emergency" among minorities. The caucus noted that one out of four black men passes through the correctional system, where the HIV infection rate is 5%, and AIDS has become the leading cause of death for black men ages 25- 44 (USA Today, 10/5). Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said, "Prison and jails provide a critical opportunity to provide lifesaving HIV prevention services to a population that might otherwise be missed. Many of these individuals pass through these facilities only briefly before returning to the community. If we fail them, we fail our communities" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/4).
Last month, researchers at the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta said that prison inmates are five times more likely than non-inmates to have AIDS and 10 times more likely to have HIV (Medisphere release 10/4). Overall, between 35,000 and 47,000 inmates are HIV-positive and one-third of those are released every year, according to the CDC's John Miles (USA Today, 10/5). In addition, one-fifth of all gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in Chicago and one-fourth of all syphilis cases were diagnosed at Cook County Jail. Rev. Jesse Jackson joined public health officials and correctional experts at the Chicago meeting to create the first-ever guidelines for HIV care in prisons. Jackson said, "We have a global health emergency created by HIV/AIDS that we must join hands to address. ... The importance of linking health care and disease prevention in correctional facilities and to other communities is essential. Detainees come from the community and they return to it. By protecting the health of detainees, we protect our communities." Lydia Watts, the Correctional Care Health Initiatives director in Chicago's health department, said, "Our goal is to make sure that individuals detained are linked to public health services when released. By doing this, we are able to assist the individual in ensuring their access to care as well as their adherence to complicated treatment regimens" (release, 10/4).