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HIV-Positive Prisoner Betsie Gallardo Passes Away

February 1, 2011

Last month, TheBody.com reported on Betsie Gallardo, an HIV-positive Florida inmate who was dying from stage IV gallbladder cancer and being denied food and liquids from prison officials. I'm saddened to report that Gallardo passed away Jan. 31 in her mother's Indiana home. She was only 27 years old.

In an e-mail sent to HIV advocates around the country, Gallardo's mother, Jessica Bussert, wrote:

This morning at about 10:00am, Betsie Gallardo Bussert passed away. She was surrounded by her parents and her siblings, and the room was simply filled with love. Over the past few weeks Betsie was able to visit with family and friends, walk on the beach, go out to a movie, go shopping, and attend church. She was free and happy and she was blessed in a thousand ways. When the time finally came she was at peace and out of pain. We held her hands and prayed with her up until the last.

A memorial Mass will be held at St. Agnes Church, Nashville Indiana, on Sunday February 6th at 2:00pm. In lieu of flowers, please offer gifts directly to either of the two hospice services that provided so much care to Betsie and our family. Their contact information can be found below.

Sincerely,
Jessica Bussert

Hospice of Bloomington Hospital
619 W. 1st Street
Bloomington, IN 47403
(812) 353-9818

Catholic Hospice of Miami
14875 NW 77 Avenue
Suite 100
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
1-800-533-3933

In 2009, Gallardo was convicted of battery of an officer and resisting arrest. She was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, even though she had no prior convictions. Many advocates believe her sentence was unfairly harsh and was issued because she was HIV positive and spit on the officer.

In early 2010, she was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer. While she received cancer treatment in prison, a tumor developed that blocked her intestines, making it impossible for her to hold down food and liquids. However, prison officials refused to provide Gallardo with nutrition intravenously. Without food, Gallardo would have eventually starved to death.

Bussert brought this injustice to the attention of the media and begged that her daughter be released from jail and sent to a hospice so that she could receive intravenous nutrients and given the opportunity to die in the presence of her family. On Jan. 5, her request was granted: The Florida Parole Commission voted 2-1 to release Gallardo to a local hospital. Gallardo was later taken back to her home state of Indiana.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

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