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U.S. Department of Justice Releases Report on HIV in Prisons

In December 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice released a report entitled HIV in Prisons, 2007-08. The report indicates that while the number of prisoners with HIV increased in some states and decreased in others, overall the number of HIV-positive prisoners in the U.S. remained fairly stable.

The report compares statistics on prisoners with HIV for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Discounting data from Illinois, Indiana, Alaska and Oregon due to incomplete reporting by those states, the number of prisoners reported to have HIV increased slightly from 21,644 in 2007 to 21,987 in 2008.

This represents 1.5% of the total prisoner population, which is slightly less than the 1.7% reported in 2006. Notably, the rate of HIV infection among female prisoners was 1.9% in 2008 compared to a 1.5% rate for male prisoners.

Nationwide, an estimated 5,733 prisoners were reported to have confirmed cases of AIDS in 2008, though not all ju-risdictions report whether HIV-positive prisoners have AIDS, thus that estimate is likely low. In 2007, 120 AIDS-related deaths among state prisoners were reported. This is down from an estimated 155 deaths in 2006. The highest number of AIDS-related prisoner deaths were reported in Florida, Texas and New York.

The AIDS-related death rate per 100,000 state prisoners in 2007 was 9 for males, 8 for females, 5 for whites, 14 for Blacks and 7 for Hispanics.

The AIDS-related death rate for state prisoners fell from 3.5 times the rate in the general U.S. population in 1995 to 1.5 in 2006, the most recent data available. That is, the AIDS death rate among prisoners is 50% higher than the rate of such deaths in the general population. The states with the highest rates of AIDS-related prisoner deaths were Maryland (35 per 100,000) and New Hampshire (34 per 100,000). Federal prisoner deaths from AIDS-related causes increased to 13 in 2008 from 10 in 2007.

In 2008, Florida, New York and Texas accounted for 24% of the total state prisoner population nationwide but had 46% of all prisoners with HIV. The largest increases in the number of HIV-positive prisoners between 2007 and 2008 were in California (up 246) and Florida (up 166). The largest decrease was in New York (down 450).

In 2008, 24 states reported testing all prisoners for HIV at some time during their incarceration. Twenty-three of those states tested at admission, 5 while in custody and 6 upon release. All states and the BOP test prisoners who have clinical indications of HIV or who request testing. Forty-two states and the BOP test prisoners involved in HIV-exposure incidents, while 18 states and the BOP test prisoners who belong to specific “high-risk” groups, which were not specified.

The good news buried in the report is that the improved availability of HIV treatment in state and federal prisons has led to a precipitous drop in the rate of AIDS-related prisoner deaths and a stabilization of the rate of HIV infection among prisoners. There is still room for improvement, however, as both rates remain significantly above that of the general U.S. population.

Source: “HIV in Prisons, 2007-08,” available online at

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