Honoring 20 years of providing HIV/AIDS services in Harlem (36188)

While sex in prison is forbidden, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, is prevalent. However, a new report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) revealed the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths inside the big house has decreased in the past decade.

According to the report, which was released earlier this month, the rate of AIDS-related deaths among all state and federal prisoners dropped by an average of about 16 percent each year between 2001 through 2010. In 2010, 72 inmates in state prison and just seven in federal prisons died from HIV/AIDS-related causes.

New York, California, Florida and Texas housed more than half of all state inmates with HIV/AIDS, however, the four states held about one-third of all state prisoners in custody nationwide. New York prisons held the highest rate of inmates with HIV/AIDS, with about 6 percent, followed by inmates in Louisiana, Maryland and Florida.

The study attributes the steady decline of HIV/AIDS-related deaths in prison, at least in part, to a decrease in the number of male African-American inmates over the age of 35. For example, the number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths among all male state prisoners dropped from 89 in 2009 to 69 in 2010. The number of female inmates with HIV/AIDS in state prisons decreased from 1,853 in 2009 to 1,756 in 2010.

While a prison sentence and HIV/AIDS diagnosis could easily cause even the most headstrong person to want to give up, many counselors contend that while the latest BJS report is encouraging, more could be done to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases in prison. For example, the distribution of condoms to state and federal inmates has long been a bone of contention between prison officials, HIV/AIDS activists and prisoners. Prisons are forbidden from distributing condoms to inmates.

Jose Martin Garcia Orduna, executive director at the Manhattan HIV Care Network, said professionals often fail to give inmates the necessities to remain well in prison and successfully re-enter society despite living with virus. “This starts with providing HIV-positive men and women with adequate health care and support systems,” he said.

Orduna added that many clients who seek assistance from organizations such as Manhattan HIV Care Network and similar agencies are recently released inmates infected with HIV.

To view the complete statistical list and report, “HIV in Prison 2001-2010,” visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics online at www.bjs.gov.