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High AIDS Rate Behind Bars

People entering U.S. prisons have high HIV infection rates and transmission of the virus that causes AIDS continues among prisoners because of intravenous drug use and homosexual activity, Federal health officials said June 4 in Atlanta.

As of November 1990, there were 4,519 cases of AIDS reported among inmates in federal prisons and 45 state prisons, and another 2,466 cases in 25 city and county jail systems, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported. Those cases reflect the prevalence of HIV infection among the men and women entering the nation's prison, the agency said.

The CDC said a recent report indicated that among entrants to 10 selected U.S. jails and federal and state prisons, the HIV rate was between 2.1 and 7.6 percent for men and between 2.7 and 14.7 percent for women. That compares to a rate of just .04 for male blood donors and .02 percent for female donors in the general population.

After incarceration, transmission of the AIDS virus continues among the prisoners, said Gary West, assistant deputy director for the CDC's National Center for Prevention Services. "There is evidence that transmission does occur in prison," said West. To combat the spread of the disease, some prisons have even begun providing condoms to inmates, he said.

The risk of HIV transmission may be higher in prisons in which inmates serve longer terms or with large inmate populations, the CDC said. The CDC said 67 percent of prisons tested for AIDS identified themselves as intravenous drug users, one of the high-risk activities for transmission of the HIV virus. Four percent of the drug-using prisons tested positive for the AIDS virus.
Corrections Digest

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