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How Can Prisons and Jails Improve HIV Testing and Post-Release Treatment?

Few prison systems or jails in the United States have comprehensive programs to provide critical services that link HIV-positive inmates to care after their release, according to a study published in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs.

“While some progress has been made when it comes to providing HIV testing in jails and prisons, we are missing a major opportunity to provide comprehensive, ongoing HIV care to people once they leave a correctional facility,” said Dr. Liza Solomon, the study’s lead author and a principal associate with Abt Global.

Researchers from Abt Global and other organizations surveyed medical directors from 50 state prison systems and 40 of the largest jails in the United States to create the first comprehensive look at how U.S. prison and jail programs screen for HIV and link people to HIV care in the community once they are released. Among the findings:

  • Only 19 percent of prison systems and 35 percent of jails provide opt-out HIV testing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  • Less than 20 percent of prisons and jails follow the CDC’s guidelines for helping inmates once they transition back into the community.

The researchers recommend jails and prisons follow the CDC’s guidelines for HIV testing and providing post-release care, such as making an appointment with a community health care provider, assisting with enrollment in an entitlement program and providing a copy of the medical record and a supply of HIV medications.

Study co-authors include Michael Costa of Abt Global; Brian Montague, Curt Beckwith and Josiah Rich of Brown Medical School; Jacques Baillargeon of the University of Texas Medical Branch; Irene Kuo of the George Washington University; Ann Kurth of New York University; and Dora Dumont of the Miriam Hospital.

For a copy of the article, visit Health Affairs.

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