NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 12, 2004

While many studies have documented the prevalence of AIDS in prisons, researchers are now examining how patterns of incarceration affect its transmission beyond prison walls. The relatively high rate of incarceration of black men may be accelerating the spread of AIDS among African-Americans, say experts.

A study of North Carolina inmates revealed a strong link between the incarceration rates and the rates of HIV:

  • African-Americans comprise over 70 percent of existing HIV and AIDS cases, and about 60 percent of 35,000 inmates in the state.
  • The rate of AIDS cases in prison is three times higher than in the general population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics; moreover, many inmates are already infected when they enter prison.
  • Over 40 percent of the 2.1 million prison population are black.

Risky sexual activity and untreated drug addiction, along with condoms banned in most correctional facilities, has contributed to the spread of HIV, notes the study. Moreover, as inmates are released, they infect women in the community that they have sexual contact with. Due to the skewed ratio of available men, women are reluctant to confront them about their past sexual behavior while they were confined, say researchers.

Source: Lynette Clemetson, "Links Between Prison and AIDS Affecting Blacks Inside and Out," New York Times, August 6, 2004.


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