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Prison AIDS Cases, Deaths Increase; HIV Infections Decrease

In January 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, reported that the number of confirmed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases and AIDS-related deaths among all state and federal prisoners increased from yearend 2000 to yearend 2001. In the same time period, the number of prisoners known to be infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS, decreased. PLN reports frequently on prisoners and AIDS.

On December 31, 2001, 22,627 state prisoners (2.0% of the total population) and 1,520 federal prisoners (1.2%) were known to be infected with HIV. The 4,147 infections represented a decrease of 1,186 infections from yearend 2000. The federal infection rate, though, was the highest ever recorded in the federal system.

At the same time, the number of AIDS cases increased from 5,696 at yearend 2000 to 5,754 at yearend 2001. AIDS case rates were 0.5% among state prisoners and 0.4% among federal prisoners.

AIDS-related deaths also rose in 2001. The total number of known AIDS-related prisoner deaths in 2001 was 222, up from 185 the previous year. Twenty-two of the 2001 deaths were among federal prisoners, up from one in 2000. The increase in AIDS-related deaths in 2001 was the first since 1,010 prisoners died from AIDS in 1995.

Three states New York (5,500), Florida (2,602), and Texas (2,388) held nearly half of all HIV-infected prisoners in 2001. The vast majority of HIV-infected prisoners are concentrated in a few states, most in the Northeastern U.S. with a 4.9% infection rate among state prisoners, followed by the South (2.2% infection rate), the Midwest (1.0%), and the West (0.8%). New York, which held nearly 25% of all HIV-infected prisoners, had the highest infection rate (8.1%), followed by Rhode Island (4.4%) and Florida (3.6%). In 2001, every state had at least one HIV-infected prisoner.

From yearend 2000 to yearend 2001, 28 states saw their numbers of HIV-infected prisoners decrease. New York saw the largest decrease. Seventeen states and the federal system saw increases in HIV-infected prisoners, with the federal system experiencing the largest increase.

Throughout the United States, a greater percentage of female prisoners than male prisoners were infected with HIV. The states with, the highest HIV infection rates among female prisoners were New York (14.9% of all female prisoners), Rhode Island (12.1%), and Nevada (12.0%). By comparison, New York's HIV infection rate among male prisoners, also the nation's highest, was 7.8%.

Since the BJS began tracking prison AIDS cases in 1991, confirmed AIDS rates among prisoners have been higher than the infection rates in the general population. At yearend 2001, about 49 out of every 10,000 prisoners had confirmed AIDS, compared to 14 out of every 10,000 persons in the U.S. generally, a 3-fold disparity. Likewise, even though AIDS-related deaths among prisoners has fallen 75% from 1995 to 2001, prisoner death from AIDS cases and continued rates from AIDS in 2001 were more than double the AIDS death rates in the general U.S. population. The greatest number of AIDS deaths in 2001 were in the South (134), followed by the Midwest (68).

The report is titled HIV in Prisons 2001. It is report number NCJ 202293. The report is available free from NCJRS, Post Office Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000. It can also be downloaded in ASCII or PDF format from the BJS website at

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