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A collective checkup
By Ann Coppola, News Reporter
Published: 04/28/2008

Hiv The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released two reports concerning the health status of prison and jail inmates in the United States. The good news from HIV in Prisons, 2006, is that the number of HIV-positive state and federal inmates continues to decline. However, according to Medical Problems of Prisoners, 44 percent of state inmates and 39 percent of federal inmates report that they have a current medical problem other than a cold or virus.

“With HIV it’s been pretty much the same story for a number of years,” says BJS statistician Laura Maruschak, who wrote both reports. Maruschak has worked on the annual HIV report since 1995, and worked on the 1997 medical problems report. The HIV report provides the number of HIV and AIDS cases at yearend 2006.

“Overall the numbers are going down,” she says. “The decline in AIDS related deaths began in 1995, and the deaths are still decreasing.”

Between 2005 and 2006, the number of state and federal prisoners who were HIV-positive decreased 3.1 percent. Sixteen states and the federal system reported a decrease in the number of HIV-infected prisoners and 25 states reported an increase from 2005 to 2006. New York, with 440 fewer HIV-positive prisoners, reported the largest decrease.

Also during 2006, the number of AIDS-related deaths in state and federal prisons totaled 167, down from 203 in 2005. However, the rate of confirmed AIDS cases in state and federal prisoners is still greater than the rate in the U.S. general population. At yearend 2006, about 46 in 10,000 prison inmates were estimated to have confirmed AIDS, compared to 17 in 10,000 persons in the general population.

According to Medical Problems of Prisoners, which provides data from a 2004 national inmate survey, a sizable majority of inmates reported receiving a health screening upon intake.

“If you look at the time of admission data, a good percentage, about 90 percent of state and federal inmates reported being asked at intake about their health and medical history,” Maruschak says. “Almost all state and federal inmates, about 95 percent reported being tested for tuberculosis.”

Hypertension and arthritis were the most commonly reported medical problems. More than one-third of state inmates and nearly a quarter of federal inmates reported having an impairment, including a learning, speech, hearing, vision, mobility, or mental impairment.

“Learning was the most commonly reported impairment among state and federal inmates, and the younger inmates are more likely to report that too. Vision and hearing are all types of things that are more common as one ages,” Maruschak says.

Because Medical Problems of Prisoners comes from an inmate survey, BJS isn’t expecting the next report to come out until 2010. The next HIV in Prisons report is expected to come out next year.

Related Resources:

Read HIV in Prisons, 2006

Read Medical Problems of Prisoners


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