High Number Of HIV Cases Found Among Female Inmates In Washington

Armen Hareyan's picture

A high number of HIV cases has been detected among female inmates inthe Washington, D.C., jail, according to data released recently by thedistrict Department of Health as part of a summary of its six-month campaign encouraging district residents to be tested for HIV, the Washington Post reports (Levine, Washington Post, 8/2).

Districthealth officials and HIV/AIDS advocates in June 2006 launched thecampaign -- titled "Come Together D.C., Get Screened for HIV" -- whichemphasized the importance of HIV testing. The campaign aimed to reach400,000 men, women and children ages 14 to 84 in the district.According to statistics presented at the Mayor's Task Force onHIV/AIDS, which convened for the first time in June 2006, up to 25,000people, or more than 4% of all residents, in the district might beHIV-positive. District health officials ordered 80,000 rapid HIV testsfor the campaign, which organizers planned to distribute at no cost tohospital emergency departments, private physician offices, communityhealth programs, detoxification and substance use centers, and sexuallytransmitted infection treatment clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). According to the Post, the jail was "ahead of city health officials' push to make HIV testing a routine part of most medical screenings."

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Accordingto the data, 3,216 inmates were tested over a six-month period, 607 ofwhom were women. The report found that 7.3% of the women testedpositive for HIV, compared with 2.7% of the men. Devon Brown, directorof the district's Department of Corrections,said he believes the figures are representative of the nearly 2,000women who are processed annually at the jail. Brown added thatcommercial sex work and injection drug use -- which often place peopleat an increased risk of HIV -- are the most common charges among femaleinmates. The report also found that inmates ages 45 and older had thehighest rate of HIV by age, with 4.8% of all inmates in that age rangetesting positive for HIV.

According to officials, fighting thespread of HIV in the district's jail is essential to citywide effortsbecause nine out of 10 inmates are released within 30 days. Thedistrict's jail is one of a few facilities nationwide thatautomatically tests for HIV upon entry and release unless an inmaterefuses to receive a test. According to district officials, fewer than10% of inmates refuse a test. The not-for-profit group Unity Health Care provides treatment for inmates who test positive for the virus, the Post reports.

A December 2006 report by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justicepraised the Department of Corrections' approach to testing inmates butsaid the department should provide counseling and HIV/AIDS educationfor all inmates, regardless of their HIV status, the Post reports.According to Brown, such efforts have been implemented, beginning withHIV-themed programs played on the jail's television system. "Youliterally have a captive audience," he said, adding that women paycloser attention to the programs than men (Washington Post, 8/2).

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.