U.S. News

No Medication for Many HIV-Positive Nevada Inmates

April 3, 2006

Less than half of Nevada inmates known to be HIV-positive are receiving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), though Department of Corrections officials (DOC) say no infected prisoners are being denied treatment. Advocates, however, are skeptical.

Inmates often refuse to take ARVs because of side effects or they stop taking the drugs once they feel better, said Karen Walsh, health information officer with the department. "It's sad," she said. "You can't force someone to take medications. Anything like HIV medications or insulin will get filled even if [prison staff members] have to get them at a local pharmacy."

However, the Diversity Leadership Institute often receives reports from former or current inmates about their inability to obtain medication, said Consuelo McCuin, DLI's executive director.

"We're not dealing with patients in the free world, where people clearly have more choices in many instances and can change doctors if they need to," said Gary Peck, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union-Nevada. "These options are not available to inmates. They are at the mercy of the system."

Peck cited other alleged DOC failures that show inmates are not getting their medicine properly. "The statistics, sadly, are consistent with what we know about the way in which the entire prison health care system is run."

Of the state's 12,000 inmates, 94 men and 23 women are known to be HIV-positive. Of them, just 52 were prescribed ARVs in November and December. In January, that number slipped to 50. Of the $30 million DOC spends on medical services annually, about $480,000 goes to provide HIV medications.

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Adapted from:
Assoicated Press

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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