40% infection rate inside South Africa’s prisons. While the percentage of prisoners infected in the U.S. isn’t nearly as high, the comparison of the prison infection rate with that of the general population is worse in the U.S.. In South Africa, the HIV/AIDS rate in prison is twice that of the rate in the general population. In some states, like New York and Florida, the rate of HIV and AIDS inside prisons is at least eight times that of the general population.
More than 6% of New York prisoners and 4% of Florida prisoners are believed to be infected. Nearly 2% of inmates across the country – or 40,000 people – are living with HIV or AIDS behind bars. The vast majority of these prisoners are not being treated effectively to manage the disease. More than 600,000 prisoners are released from prison each year in the U.S., and these statistics would suggest that 12,000 of them have HIV or AIDS. They return to their communities, and some of them don’t know they have the disease. Many haven’t had an effective education in preventing the spread of the disease and aren’t providing with the tools (treatment, condoms, needles, etc.) to mitigate the danger. Many prisoners contracted the disease inside prison, from unprotected sex or drug use. There are ways to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases behind bars, and we aren’t acting on them.
One of these solutions is condom distribution. Sexual assault and consensual sex are common in prisons, and they always will be. Only two states and five county systems distribute condoms to prisoners. This should be a standard nationwide, especially now that we have an administration in Washington, D.C., that accepts the rational argument that sex happens and that condoms prevent the spread of disease.
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