Human Rights Watch releases report on HIV-positive inmates receiving insufficient care in Louisiana prisons
David Lohr of The Huffington Post reports that the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch released a 70-page report this week chastising Louisiana for endangering HIV-positive inmates. The report, entitled Paying the Price: Failure to Deliver HIV Services in Louisiana Parish Jails, documents “inadequate, haphazard, and in many cases, nonexistent HIV testing [and] treatment” inside Louisiana jails, which house nearly half the people incarcerated in the state (Huff Post).
Louisiana is notorious for the world’s highest incarceration rate, and Human Rights Watch claims that it often fails to provide even basic services to HIV-positive individuals, which is also a public health concern for the communities to which they return.
“Louisiana is ‘ground zero’ for two epidemics in the U.S., with the highest rate of new HIV infections and an incarceration rate about the national average,” said Megan McLemore, senior health researched at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The Lack of treatment affects both people with HIV and the entire community, because whoever goes into jail comes back out” (Huff Post).
Lohr claims that according to the report, based on a Human Rights Watch study conducted from October 2014 to December 2015, only five of 104 parish jails regularly offer HIV tests to inmates on entry, as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many Louisiana jails say that they cannot afford to treat inmates who are HIV-positive.
- Wright, a nursing director at Caddo Parish Correctional Center in Shreveport, says, “Why don’t we do routine HIV testing? We cannot afford to treat someone who was identified as HIV-positive. It sounds cold, I know, but that is the reality (Huff Post).
However, Human Rights watch found that no parish jails were taking advantage of any federal AIDS drug assistance programs, which help pay for medications for people in pre-trial detention. Institutions in 17 states rely on the programs. Human Rights Watch is calling on Louisiana’s government to continue to carry out criminal justice reforms that will promote alternatives to incarceration, which will reduce the fiscal burden on jails for treating chronic conditions while promoting public health (Huff Post).
“The government is obligated to provide medical care to people living with HIV in parish jails,” McLemore said. “But treatment in the community is a win-win situation for everyone concerned.”
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