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HIV Infections, AIDS Deaths Down in U.S. Prisons

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the fearsome, incurable disease caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is far more prevalent in prison populations nationwide than it is in the general, non-incarcerated population throughout the United States. At the end of the year 2000, 52 out of every 10,000 prisoners had confirmed AIDS, compared to 13 out of every 10,000 persons in the general U.S. population. The rate of AIDS-related deaths among prisoners, though, is lower than the AIDS-related death rate in the general population.

This information was reported October 2002 in a bulletin released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The good news, according to the BJS, was that the number of prisoners who were known to be HIV positive or confirmed to have AIDS declined for the first time since HIV and AIDS in prison began to be measured in 1991. Even better, the number of AIDS-related deaths among state prisoners declined 80% from the peak of 1,010 AIDS-related deaths in 1995. The number of AIDS related deaths in the federal prison system rose slightly. During the year 2000, 174 state prisoners and 21 federal prisoners died from AIDS-related causes. Put another way, at the peak in 1995, 32% of all prisoner deaths in state prisons were caused by AIDS, while in 2000, only 6% of all prisoner deaths were AIDS-related.

The BJS based its report on the 2000 National Prisoners Statistics and the 2000 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities. The report noted that the highest rates of HIV infections and AIDS cases were found in the Northeast U.S. New York had the greatest total number of HIV infected prisoners and of confirmed AIDS cases as well as the highest percentages of prisoners with HIV or AIDS. Florida and Texas rounded out the top three in terms of numbers of HIV-infected prisoners and the number of confirmed AIDS cases. However, the percentages of confirmed AIDS cases in prison populations were consistently higher in Northeastern states (even when lower in total numbers) than in other states. Rates of HIV infections were higher among female prisoners than male prisoners.

Florida (48 deaths) and New Jersey (20 deaths) had the greatest numbers of prisoner deaths due to AIDS. Southern states had the largest numbers and highest rates of AIDS-related deaths compared to other states. New York showed a dramatic decline in AIDS-related prisoner deaths from 258 in 1995 to 8 in 2000. Many states reported no AIDS-related deaths in 2000, and four states (Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas) declined to report their AIDS-related deaths in 2000. The report noted that, "although AIDS deaths represent a higher percentage of all deaths among prisoners than in the general population, the rate of AIDS-related deaths (20 per 100,000) for State inmates in 1999 was significantly lower than the rate (25 per 100,000) for a comparable group in the general population."

The report is titled HIV in Prisons, 2000, and is report number NCJ 196023. A single copy of the report is available free by writing National Criminal Justice Resource Service, Post Office Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000. The report can also be downloaded from the BJS website at

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