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Denial of AIDS Cocktail: Actionable in Tacoma Jail Suit

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that officials at the Pierce
County Jail in Washington State are not entitled to qualified immunity for
their failure to provide a pre-trial detainee an AIDS "cocktail" promptly
upon booking. The detainee was in the final stages of AIDS at the time of
his arrest on an outstanding bench warrant. He advised booking personnel,
including a nurse, of his condition and that his "cocktail" was a multiple-
drug regimen that required strict compliance by the patient in order to
avoid drug resistance and treatment failure.

It is undisputed the detainee did not receive his medication for at least
two days. His 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action was dismissed on summary
judgment by the district court, and the detainee appealed. The Ninth
Circuit found it was common knowledge that an AIDS cocktail schedule must
be strictly complied with, lest it become ineffective. Moreover, the court
found a genuine dispute of material fact existed with respect to the
question of harm resulting from the delay, as a doctor testified the
detainee's viral load increased. Accordingly, the court held jail
officials were not entitled to qualified immunity from damages.

Additionally, the court held a question existed as to whether Pierce
County was liable for the existence of a policy of inadequate medical
treatment. The County had previously admitted the jail's medical treatment
and the provision of medication violated prisoners' Constitutional rights.
The Court reversed and remanded the district court's grant of summary
judgment. See: Sullivan v. County of Pierce, 2000 WL 432398 (9th Cir.
2000), unpublished opinion.

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Related legal case

Sullivan v. County of Pierce