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Bill Should Allow Condom Distribution In Prisons To Prevent Spread Of HIV

Armen Hareyan's picture

Condom Distribution In Prisons

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Despite "laws forbidding" sex between prison inmates and prisonofficials' denial that it occurs, inmates do have "unprotected sex,"making "prisons prime settings for the spread of deadly bloodborneviruses like hepatitis C and HIV," a New York Times editorial says. CDClast year "underscored this point" when it "urged states withoutcondom-distribution programs to think about starting them as a way ofpreventing the spread of HIV behind bars," according to the editorial.It adds that by "protecting the inmates, the state would also protectthe all-too-vulnerable wives and lovers to whom they inevitably returnwhen their sentences are completed."

The California Legislature last year "tried to take" CDC's advice by "passing a landmark bill that would have allowed public health agencies to enter prisons and distribute condoms to inmates who wanted them," the Timessays. Although the bill had the "overwhelming support of the votingpublic," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed it and used the"familiar know-nothing excuse that handing out condoms would justifyillegal sexual activity," according to the editorial. The "experienceof jurisdictions that allow condoms does not support this view," the Timessays, adding that "public health officials now recognize thatcondom-distribution programs are integral to any meaningful AIDSprevention program." Such programs are operating in prisons in Canada,in much of the European Union and in jails in Los Angeles, New YorkCity, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., according tothe editorial.

The California Legislature again has "taken upthe condom bill," which is sponsored by Assembly member Sandre Swanson(D), the editorial says, adding that the bill "deserves to pass thelegislature, just as it did last year." However, this time,Schwarzenegger should "sign the bill," the Times says,concluding that it would "give California's public health community apowerful tool to fight the spread of a deadly disease" (New York Times, 7/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork\t\t\t\t\t\t\t

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and signup for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.