NAACP Supports Congressional Efforts To The Stop The Spread Of HIV/AIDS In U.S. Prisons And Jails

PRISON HIV INFECTION RATE IS FOUR TIMES HIGHER THAN THE GENERAL POPULATION

Currently there are 2.4 million people in jail or prison in the United States and roughly 1.5% of inmates in state and federal prisons are living with HIV or AIDS, a percentage about four times higher than the infection rate of HIV in the general population. This is especially important to the NAACP, given the disparate rate of racial and ethnic minorities who currently occupy our nation’s jails and prisons (more than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For African American males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the so-called "war on drugs," in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.)  Recognizing that over 700,000 former inmates returned to our communities last year alone further raises the urgency to address this crisis. Being HIV positive unquestionably exacerbates the problems faced by men and women who have left prison or jail and are trying to reenter society.

To aggressively address this problem, several bills have been introduced to try to identify and stop this growing problem, and to ensure the safe and humane treatment of prisoners who are HIV positive or have the AIDS virus.    Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA) has introduced H.R. 3053, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal HIV Discrimination Act (REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act).  This legislation encourages laws that do not place unique burdens on individuals solely as a result of their HIV status.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA) has introduced H.R. 3547, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act of 2011.  This legislation would develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV testing, treatment, and prevention for inmates in federal prisons and upon reentry into the community. It would require prisons to test inmates upon intake and offer counseling, as well as conduct HIV testing of prisoners annually, upon request, or upon exposure to HIV. In addition, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act would require frequent HIV/AIDS educational programs for all inmates. In short, this bill would result in the necessary HIV education, prevention services and treatment in order to improve HIV health care in prisons.

THE NAACP SUPPORTS THE REPEAL EXISTING POLICIES THAT ENCOURAGE AND ALLOW LEGAL HIV DISCRIMINATION ACT (REPEAL HIV DISCRIMINATION ACT) AND THE STOP AIDS IN PRISON ACT OF 2011 AS URGENT AND NECESSARY LEGISLATION TO TRY TO STOP THE SPREAD OF HIV/AIDS IN OUR NATION’S JAILS AND PRISONS.

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