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New Report Cites Fewer HIV-Positive State and Federal Prisoners

New Report Cites Fewer HIV-Positive State and Federal Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

A recent study revealed that the number of HIV-positive prisoners in both state and federal facilities nationwide is declining and, for the first time, the AIDS mortality rate for prisoners has fallen below the national average among the general population. The findings, presented in a Bureau of Justice Statistics report published by the U.S. Department of Justice, reflect a significant drop in the number of AIDS-related prisoner deaths.

The report, “HIV in Prisons, 2001-2010,” documents a 10-year, 16 percent decline in the rate of HIV infections in state and federal prisons – from 194 per 10,000 prisoners at the end of 2001 to 146 per 10,000 at the end of 2010.

The reduction in AIDS-related deaths was even more dramatic, falling an average 16 percent per year among the states that reported such deaths during the same ten-year period. The study cited a drop in the rate of AIDS-related prisoner deaths from 24 per 100,000 population in 2001 to only five per 100,000 in 2010.

The steep decline means that in 2009, the AIDS mortality rate among state prisoners – six per 100,000 – fell below the rate in the general population – seven per 100,000 – for the first time.

The decrease is even more significant considering that at the end of 2001, the AIDS-related death rate among prisoners age 15 to 54 was about triple that of the general population.

“Rates of HIV/AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths declined across all sizes of prison populations,” the report stated. The reduction was greatest in large prisons (19 percent), followed by medium-sized prisons (17 percent) and small facilities (12 percent).

The study found that declines in AIDS-related deaths crossed both age and racial lines: “AIDS-related deaths in state prisons declined from 89 in 2009 to 69 in 2010 among males, from 70 to 43 among black non-Hispanics, and from 87 to 60 among all state inmates age 35 or older,” the report noted.

New York led the list of states with the most HIV-positive prisoners, with 3,080 at the end of 2010. Florida was second with 2,920 and Texas third with 2,394. Combined, the three states held around 45% of the nation’s HIV-positive state prisoners.

As of the end of 2010, just over 20,000 state and federal prisoners were reported to be HIV-positive, comprising 1.5 percent of the total prison population.

While the issue of HIV in the prison setting is improving in the U.S., it remains a serious problem in other countries – particularly those in Asia and Africa.

The United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime recommends a “comprehensive strategy” to combat the problem of HIV among prisoners, addressing issues such as prison overcrowding, prisoner health care, staff awareness and training, and providing prisoners with “information, means of prevention, counseling and drug dependence treatment ... and rehabilitation opportunities,” with special attention given to those at risk of infection, including “the mentally ill, juveniles, women, foreigners and those belonging to ethnic and other minorities.”

The U.N. agency, which produced the “HIV in Prisons: Situation and Needs Assessment Toolkit,” stresses that the overall objective should be “to ensure that every prisoner has access to essential HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care services.”

Sources: “HIV in Prisons, 2001-2010,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ238877 (Sept. 2012), available online at;

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