Antiretroviral Treatment During Incarceration Can Produce Optimal Viral Suppression
April 08, 2014
HIV/AIDS prevalence is three times greater in correctional facilities than in the community, and one sixth of the 1.2 million Americans living with the disease spend time in prisons each year. Since many in the prison population are disenfranchised from community health care systems and/or have psychiatric or other comorbidities that prevent them from managing their own health care as well as they might, incarceration may actually provide a benefit for people in the criminal justice system living with HIV/AIDS, whose treatment needs in prison are guaranteed by law. A new NIDA-funded study of treatment outcomes of 882 people with HIV/AIDS who were incarcerated for at least 90 days in Connecticut between 2005 and 2012 found that the majority of the study group achieved viral suppression on antiretroviral treatment (ART) by the time of their release, whereas only a third had achieved viral suppression on ART before entering prison. Incarceration may thus serve as an opportunity of last resort to initiate continuous ART for people in the criminal justice system living with HIV/AIDS. This will not only benefit the health of individual inmates with the disease but also reduce their chances of spreading it to others later, given that HIV/AIDS treatment is itself a form of prevention.