Homeland Security Department Provides Inadequate Care, Treatment To HIV-Positive People

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Department of Homeland Security provides inadequate care and treatment toHIV-positive detainees at immigration detention centers nationwide, accordingto a report released recently by Human RightsWatch, the LosAngeles Timesreports. According to the Times, the report was released inresponse to the death of an HIV-positive inmate at a San Pedro, Calif.,detention center (Griggs, Los Angeles Times, 12/8).

Victor Arellano -- who was transgender and went by the name Victoria -- allegedly was denied vitalmedical care at the San Pedro center. Attorneys for Arellano's family say thatwhile in custody, Arellano's condition deteriorated to the point that fellowdetainees urged staff to provide medical care. Roman Silberfeld, the family'sattorney, said that 70 detainees signed a petition urging that Arellano receivemedical attention. When Arellano's condition became critical, Arellano wastransferred to a San Pedro hospital and died several days later (KaiserDaily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29).

For the 71-page report, Megan McLemore of HRW interviewed current and formerdetainees, as well as Homeland Security and detention facility officials inAlabama, California, New Jersey, Virginia and other states, the Timesreports. The report found that the "medical care in three types offacilities, representing nine states, was delayed, interrupted orinconsistent," McLemore said. Other findings included a failure to:

  • Provide complete antiretroviral regimens consistently, thereby increasing the chance of drug resistance;


  • Prescribe prophylactic medications to prevent opportunistic infections; and

  • Ensure continuity of care when detainees were transferred to other facilities (Los Angeles Times, 12/8).

The "U.S. governmenthas no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV or AIDS, how many needtreatment and how many are receiving the care that is necessary," McLemoresaid. She added that DHS "needs to upgrade their policies and more closelymonitor and ensure effective treatment for immigrants living with HIV or AIDS.... Otherwise these individuals will continue to suffer, and even die, in thecare of the U.S.government" (AFP/Google.com, 12/8).

Virginia Kice, spokesperson for Immigration andCustoms Enforcement,said the agency has not fully reviewed the report but generally disagrees withits findings. She added, "Ensuring the welfare and safety of those in ourcustody is one of our top priorities" (AP/Google.com,12/8). According to the Times, government or privately contractedfacilities house about 30,000 undocumented immigrants daily (Los AngelesTimes, 12/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.