AIDS and PRISONS: The Facts for Inmates and Officers
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is AIDS?................................................
When Does HIV Become AIDS?...................................
How Could I Have Been Infected with HIV?.....................
How Does Sex Spread HIV?.....................................
How Does Sharing Works Spread HIV?...........................
Can Correctional Officers Be Infected on the Job?............
Should I Get Tested?.........................................
What Does a Positive Test Result Mean?.......................
What Does a Negative Test Result Mean?.......................
How Can I Protect Myself Against HIV Infection?..............
Stop Sharing Needles and Shooting Drugs.................
If You Shoot Drugs, Don't Share Needles.................
Know the Sex and Drug History of Your
Sex Partner and Practice Safer Sex......................
What is Safer Sex?...........................................
Is There Any Treatment for HIV and AIDS?.....................
What is the Difference Between HIV and Tuberculosis?.........
What if I'm HIV+ and Get TB?.................................
How Can I Stay Health While I'm in Prison?...................
What Should I Tell My Family?................................
What if a Friend Has HIV or AIDS?............................
What Are My Rights If I'm HIV+?..............................
Five Steps You Can take to Educate
Others About AIDS..........................................
Meanings of the Words........................................
NPP AIDS Information Order Forms.............................
This booklet is about HIV and AIDS in prison. In a small space it
tries to talk about HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and what it does to
someone who is infected, especially in prison. This booklet is meant to
help prisoners and officers understand how the virus is passed along in
prison. It should help you learn how to avoid getting infected.
With what we now know about AIDS, people who are not infected can
almost always protect themselves against AIDS. The information you will
find in this booklet will teach you what you need to know to protect
yourself, your partners and your family.
Prisoners, ex-prisoners and other persons with AIDS worked on this
booklet. They felt it was important to educate themselves about AIDS.
They put this booklet together to share with others what they have
learned. We all need to learn how to prevent giving or getting the virus.
Besides distributing this booklet, prison and jail officials
should also offer AIDS education. By developing comprehensive AIDS
prevention programs, officials can help protect prisoners and staff from
exposure on the inside.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The virus
that causes AIDS is called HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency
Virus. HIV is a virus that destroys your body's ability to fight off even
small infections. Right now there is no cure for HIV. Having HIV is not
the same as having AIDS. HIV can affect people in many different ways
over many years. Most people infected with the virus seem healthy, and
many do not realize they've been infected because they have no clear
symptoms. But people with HIV can pass it on to others -- even if they
have no symptoms and even if they don't know they are infected.
When Does the Virus Become AIDS?
HIV attacks the cells of the body that are needed to fight off
infection. These cells are called T4 helper cells and are an important
part of our immune system. As the virus develops and a person becomes
sicker, certain symptoms occur. Some of the symptoms of this stage show
up in both men and women:
* Being tired all the time
* Diarrhea that lasts for many days
* Unexplained weight loss without dieting
* Swollen glands in the groin, neck, or armpit
* Unexplained fever that lasts for more than a week
* Drenching sweats at night
* Pounding headaches and dizziness
* White patchy coating on your tongue and in your mouth
* Purplish or pink blotches on the skin
Because men's and women's bodies are different, women have some
special signs such as:
* Vaginal infections that won't go away
* Open sores or bumps inside or outside your vagina or anus
* Pain when you have sex, or pain inside your belly when you don't have
* Diseases that get passed on during sex (sexually-transmitted diseases)
like herpes, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), vaginal warts, syphilis,
Any of these symptoms may be caused by other illnesses, but if
they show up and won't go away, you should go to sick call to see a
doctor, nurse or physician's assistant (P.A.).
Full-blown AIDS is the last and most serious stage of HIV
infection. A person with AIDS becomes very ill and dies from diseases
which the immune system could ordinarily fight. These common diseases
have a special "opportunity" to kill because the body's immune system has
been damaged by HIV. That's what is meant when people talk about
The most common infection that people with AIDS get is
pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (AIDS-related pneumonia), called PCP for
short. If you have PCP, you feel weak, short of breath and you may have a
cough. The second most common infection people with AIDS get is
candidiasis, sometimes called thrush, a yeast infection most commonly in
the throat. This makes it hard to swallow and digest food. Many people
also get cryptococcal meningitis. If you get this illness, you will have
a very bad headache for several days.
Another opportunistic infection associated with AIDS is
tuberculosis, which has become much more common in prisons and jails. A
new form of tuberculosis is being seen now in prisons and jails called
multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR). It is dangerous because it
cannot be treated by the usual medications for TB. People with AIDS are
at very high risk for MDR-TB.
Some people who have AIDS may have problems with their nervous
system, which can make it harder for you to see, hear, smell, taste and
touch. AIDS-related dementia makes it hard for a person to think clearly
and may cause a loss of memory. Another common AIDS-related infection is
wasting syndrome -- loss of appetite and extreme loss of weight, where
people waste away until they look like skeletons.
Many of these opportunistic infections can be treated with drugs
and other treatments. If you are worried about your health and feel you
may be showing signs of AIDS, be sure to sign up for sick call and see the
P.A., nurse or doctor.
How Could I Have Been Infected with HIV?
Anyone can be infected with HIV through sex, direct exchange of
blood, or both. It's what you do that puts you at risk of being infected,
not who you are. HIV and AIDS affects people of every race, color, sex,
sexual preference, social class and marital status. The AIDS virus is
spread only through a direct exchange of blood, semen (cum) or vaginal
fluids (sexual juices) between an HIV-infected person and someone else.
The three main ways HIV/AIDS is spread are:
* Having unprotected sex (no condom or other barrier) with an infected
* Sharing needles: IV drug outfits -- needles, syringes and cookers. Also
possibly tattooing and ear-piercing needles and manicure/pedicure tools.
* Babies can be born with the HIV virus or get infected by breastfeeding.
The AIDS virus is not spread through casual contact. You cannot
get AIDS from:
* Using the same shower or toilet
* Living in the same cell or dormitory
* Contact with tears, saliva, urine (piss), feces (shit) or sweat
* Sharing food, dishes, silverware, glasses or cooking pots
* Eating food made by someone with AIDS
* Coughs or sneezes
* Sharing the same telephone
* Mosquito or insect bites
* Hugging, kissing, or touching someone who has AIDS
* Fighting with someone who is HIV positive
How Does Sex Spread HIV?
HIV is spread through sex when blood, semen, or vaginal fluids
from an infected person enter someone else's body, usually through the
mouth, vagina or anus. The body fluids that have the highest amounts of
the HIV virus are blood and semen. Vaginal fluids also contain enough
virus to allow infection in some cases.
The two most risky sexual activities are anal and vaginal sex
without a condom. Anal sex without a condom allows semen to be directly
absorbed through the lining of the anus. Vaginal sex without a condom
means the semen can enter your bloodstream directly through the walls of
the cervix or vagina, especially during or just before a woman's period.
A woman can get HIV from an infected man, and, if she's infected, she can
pass HIV on to her partner, male or female.
Men who have anal sex with other men or women should be very
careful to wear a condom or latex barrier to protect your sexual partner.
Because women are infected much more easily than men during sex between
men and women, men should also always wear a condom or some latex barrier
(the material that medical gloves are made of) during heterosexual sex.
Oral sex (blow jobs) can also spread HIV, although the risk is
much less than vaginal or anal sex. The risk of passing on HIV during
oral sex depends on whether you have cuts on your gums or tongue. These
cuts occur during ordinary activities like brushing your teeth or eating
crisp foods like toast or potato chips. Even though a lot is not known
about HIV infection during oral sex, you should be careful not to expose
your partner or yourself directly to semen, vaginal fluids or blood.
Sex between women is thought to be lower-risk than any sex
involving semen. The amount of HIV in women's vaginal fluids is much
lower. But woman-to-woman transmission of HIV can happen if any blood is
exchanged during sex. Also, infected vaginal fluids can enter your
partner's body through cuts on your hands or tiny cuts in your mouth.
Many women in prison (who are having sex with other women) have sex with
men when they're on the street. Many women prisoners have been
prostitutes or have traded sex for drugs, or shared IV drug needles with
their sex partners. All of these activities are called "high risk
behavior" and increase the risk of being infected with the AIDS virus,
even if the woman is now having sex only with women.
Even though sex is illegal in prison, some prisons and jails pass
out condoms to prisoners. They realize it is important to help people
protect themselves from getting infected.
How Does Sharing Works Spread HIV?
Sharing works increases your chances of getting HIV, whether the
point and outfit are your own or one you've used in a shooting gallery or
in jail. Blood carries the HIV virus, and blood can get in the needles,
the syringe itself, the cooker or the filter (cotton). It may be only a
little blood -- you may not even be able to see it -- but it goes straight
into your bloodstream. It doesn't matter if the people you share needles
with seem healthy or if you've known them a long time -- they could be
infected with HIV and not even know it themselves.
Can Correctional Officers Be Infected on the Job?
First, it is important to know that there are no reported cases of
a correctional officer becoming infected through work-related exposure.
Those officers who are infected have become so through other means outside
the workplace, such as sex, transfusions or sharing works.
However, correctional officers are subjected to various
circumstances where you may potentially become exposed to blood or other
body fluids containing blood. The risk of HIV infection arises in
situations where blood or body fluids containing blood enter an open
wound. The biggest hazard to officers is the possibility of receiving a
penetrating injury with blood. For example, officers may receive a
puncture wound or needle stick while conducting searches of prisoners or
their cells. There is also a chance of blood-borne disease transmission
when an officer responds to an assault where blood is present and it
enters an open wound.
Whenever the possibility of this exposure exists, officers should
employ the specific precautions described below. You should use these
precautions regardless of what you think you know about the HIV status of
the prisoner involved. This strategy is known as "universal precautions."
It means that you should assume that all prisoners are HIV positive.
The Centers for Disease Control have published guidelines for law
enforcement and correctional officers for the prevention of HIV
transmission in the workplace. You should obtain these guidelines and
share them with your co-workers. Your employer has a responsibility to
make your workplace safe and healthy and to provide you with the
information you need to protect yourself.
The guidelines recommend wearing protective gloves when conducting
cell, clothing and body cavity searches, as well as in other situations
where exposure to blood is likely to take place. The CDC guidelines
caution that vinyl or latex rubber gloves provide little protection
against sharp instruments. Thick gloves provide more protection but are
less effective in locating objects. Officers should select the type of
glove which provides the best balance of protection and search efficiency.
The guidelines also provide that a safe distance should always be
maintained between the officer and the prisoner during a search.
Flashlights should be used to search hidden areas. The CDC guidelines
also address exposure to saliva, such as during CPR, and feces. Even when
these substances have been purposefully contaminated with blood, there are
no documented cases of HIV transmission and none are expected. However,
other diseases could be transmitted so gloves should be worn during
Masks, gowns or gloves are not needed during routine duties such
as supervising, escorting or feeding prisoners.
Finally, officers should follow the guidelines in this booklet in
avoiding risky behavior. Practice safer sex and if you shoot drugs, don't
How Can I Tell If I've Been Infected with HIV?
The only sure way you can find out if you've been infected with
the virus is to take a blood test called the HIV antibody test. Most
prison and jails either give this test to all prisoners when they enter
the institution, or you can take the test by asking for it at sick call.
You should receive counseling before taking the test and when you get the
results. You should ask any questions you may have. In many states it is
illegal for the prison to tell anyone besides you what the results of this
test are -- the results should be confidential between you and the health
The HIV antibody test shows whether or not a person has been
infected with HIV by looking for antibodies for HIV in the blood.
Antibodies are proteins that the body forms to fight off diseases when
they enter the bloodstream. But HIV antibodies can't protect your body
from HIV infection because HIV changes and reproduces too fast for the
antibodies to catch up. When there are HIV antibodies in the blood it
shows that a person has been exposed to the virus.
Should I Get Tested?
Getting tested for HIV in prison and jail is different than being
tested outside. There are both pros and cons to getting tested while
On the plus side, it's good to know your medical status. If you
know you are HIV+, you can begin to change some of your habits so you can
live longer. You can get medical treatment if you need it. Also, if you
know your HIV status, you can tell your sexual partners on the outside and
on the inside.
However, some prisons and jails segregate people who test positive
for HIV. In some states, prisoners who are HIV+ are not able to take part
in conjugal visits or family visitation programs. Too often, your medical
results become known by other prisoners and staff.
Only you can decide what is best for you! Your institution should
have trained HIV counselors to help you think about this decision. Some
institutions have groups run by prisoners who will give you information
It is best to take the HIV antibody test at least six months after
the last possible exposure to HIV. Almost all people develop antibodies
within six months, although there are cases of people who take longer.
Remember that any time after you've been exposed to HIV (the AIDS
virus), you can pass the virus on to someone else -- to sex partners,
IV-drug buddies if you share needles, or to unborn children.
What Does a Positive Test Result Mean?
A positive test result means that you have been infected with HIV.
This result is called being HIV-positive (HIV+). The test cannot predict
if or when a person will go on to develop symptoms of AIDS. An HIV+
person can infect other people through sexual or blood-to-blood contact.
An HIV+ person should never have unsafe/unprotected sex and should
never share needles without cleaning them with bleach. An HIV+ person
should never donate blood, plasma, semen or organs. An HIV+ woman who is
thinking about having a baby should discuss her options with a health care
worker because there is 15-30% chance that she could have an HIV+ baby.
An HIV+ person should seek medical care as soon as possible
because early treatment can help you live longer. Some people have been
HIV+ for years and still feel fine. Studies show, however, that most
people will become sick over time. There are no clear reasons yet why one
person gets sick and another doesn't. Good health habits (like sleeping
enough, eating healthy foods, not smoking or drinking alcohol or using
drugs, exercising regularly and having supportive friends) may help.
In prison or jail, it's a good idea to be very careful about
telling people that you are HIV+. Many people are ignorant about what
AIDS and HIV really are and believe that you can catch AIDS from casual
contact. THIS IS NOT TRUE, but such ignorance can be dangerous to you.
Talk about being HIV+ only with friends whom you can trust, who will not
turn against you. Or talk with a counselor, psychologist or health
worker, but be sure that the people you talk to will keep this information
What Does a Negative Test Result Mean?
A negative result means that no antibodies to HIV were found in
your blood. An HIV-negative (HIV-) result within the first six months
after having unprotected sex or sharing points to shoot dope means either
your body has not had time to develop antibodies yet or that you are not
infected with HIV. A negative test result does not mean that you will not
get infected in the future or that you will not infect others if you keep
having unprotected sex or sharing works. If you have a history of risky
behavior, you may want to get tested again in three months.
How Can I Protect Myself Against HIV Infection?
Stop sharing needles and shooting drugs.
Being high on drugs or alcohol can make you careless about
cleaning your works or having safer sex.
If you shoot drugs, don't share needles.
Drug use is illegal in prison as on the streets. Because it's
hard to get works in prison, most people share their rigs with their
friends. This is very dangerous. Don't leave your works where other
people can use them without your knowing about it. If you do share your
works, clean all parts of your outfit with bleach and water before and
after each person uses them. Don't take short-cuts just because you're in
a hurry. Don't share your water or cotton at all. If you share a cooker,
rinse it with bleach between each use.
Works must be cleaned with both bleach and water. You can dilute
the bleach and it will still work. Draw the bleach into your syringe
until it's full and squirt it out. Do this at least two or three times to
kill the AIDS virus and other germs. Then draw up clean water into your
works and squirt it out until all the bleach is gone (at least two or
three times). Be careful not to shoot or drink the bleach by mistake.
Never inject bleach directly into your veins. This will not kill the HIV
in your body and it can make you very sick.
If you can't obtain bleach, then use rubbing alcohol instead.
Follow the same routine as you would for bleach. If rubbing alcohol isn't
available, try very hot water and soap. Let the works dry out before
using them again.
Don't share needles used for ear-piercing or tattooing, either.
Know the sex and drug history of your sex partner, and PRACTICE
Anyone can lie to get sex, or avoid telling the whole truth even
to themselves. Talking about risks involved in your sex or drug history
is hard to do. You or your partner may not want to admit to things you've
done in the past that could put you both at risk. Remember, it's not how
you label yourself -- gay, straight or bisexual -- that's important. What
you actually do or have done is what puts you at risk for AIDS. If you
practice safer sex, you lower your risk of infection.
A woman is most at risk for HIV/AIDS if she has shared IV needles
or had sex without a condom with someone who was infected with the AIDS
virus. Women who have used IV drugs or had sex with IV drug users, gay,
or bisexual men since 1977 may have been exposed to the AIDS virus. A
woman may also be at risk if her sex partner has had sex without a condom
with someone at high risk. In general, the more sex partners a woman has,
the greater the risk.
Whenever there is a risk of HIV infection, both partners should
practice safer sex. And if both partners are already infected with HIV,
they should still practice safer sex. It's possible they could re-infect
each other, or infect each other with different strains of the virus.
Re-infection could increase their chances of getting AIDS.
What Is Safer Sex?
Safer sex is caring enough about yourself to make choices about
the kind of sex you want to have.
Safer sex is sticking to your decisions every time you have sex.
Safer sex is feeling that you are important enough to talk to your
sex partners about your choices.
Safer sex involves having a positive attitude about yourself: I
am important. I care about my health. I can be smart and play safer with
sex and drugs. My partners should respect my decisions.
Safer sex with men means using a condom (rubber) for vaginal, oral
and anal sex. The AIDS virus can't get through a condom if it is properly
used and does not break. Condoms usually break only if there is air
inside them or because the wrong lubricant (lube) is used.
Use only latex condoms, not condoms made from sheepskin. It's
important to put the condom on correctly:
Use condoms that have a reservoir tip at the top, or pinch half an
inch at the top of the condom to collect semen. (This stops the cum from
spilling out over the sides of the condom.) Put a drop of spermicide or
lube that has non-oxynol-9 in it in the tip. Then unroll the condom
carefully over the hard penis, smoothing out all the air bubbles, all the
way down to the base of the penis. Use plenty of water-based lubricants
(like KY jelly) to make sure the condom doesn't break. Vaseline, hand
lotions and shortenings are oil-based and are unsafe because they can
weaken the condom. After ejaculation (cumming), withdraw the penis while
it is still hard. Hold on to the base of the condom carefully so none of
the semen spills out.
Safer sex with men means making sure that the condom or latex
barrier you are using does not break during anal or oral sex. It means
taking care not to take the semen into your mouth. Semen and blood carry
the highest amount of the AIDS virus.
A diaphragm, cervical cap or IUD -- with or without foam --does
not protect against HIV. Birth control pills provide NO protection
Safer sex with women means avoiding taking a partner's vaginal
fluids or blood (including period blood) into your mouth, vagina or anus.
You should not go down on her during her period, or immediately before or
after. Oral sex at other times may be less risky, but is probably not
entirely safe if your partner has HIV infection. Always play it safe and
practice safer sex.
Safer sex with women may include the use of a dental dam or latex
barrier during vaginal, oral or anal sex. Dental dams are stretched over
the vagina or anus to avoid licking the secretions. Regular plastic wrap
can be used if you don't have dental dams. To use dental dams or plastic
wrap, get a piece which is large enough to hold easily. Cover the vaginal
or anal area with the dental dam or plastic wrap. Dental dams may be hard
to hold in place. Like condoms, dental dams can't be reused.
If you share sex toys (dildos, vibrators, etc.), make sure they
are cleaned with bleach and water after each use. Or you can put a condom
on the toy.
Is There Any Treatment for HIV and AIDS?
As yet there is no cure for AIDS, but a lot has been found out and
is now known about how to live with HIV/AIDS infection. Tests are being
done with vaccines (shots) to stop people from getting this disease and to
help the person already infected get rid of the virus. Also new
medications are being discovered all the time to treat the different
infections that an HIV+ person can catch. So even though there's no cure
yet, people who are HIV+ can live with the virus for many years if they
get medical help.
Experts feel that the sooner you find out if you are HIV+ and get
medical help, the longer you will be able to stay healthy and avoid
catching opportunistic infections. Many AIDS-related illnesses can be
treated or prevented if you see a doctor regularly. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU
FEEL SICK. Go to sick call so a doctor or P.A. can check your symptoms
and do regular blood tests. They should do regular counts of your T-cells
to see how advanced the HIV infection is in your body and to find out what
kind of medicines to give you. You need to make sure you are getting the
care you need and deserve. Friends and family on the outside may also
advocate on your behalf.
There are medications (drugs) that allow people to live longer.
These are called antivirals. AZT is the most common antiviral. It is
given to people who have CD4 (one type of T-cell) cell counts of 500 or
below -- even if they show no symptoms and feel healthy. Early use of AZT
has delayed the development of AIDS because it slows down the reproduction
of the AIDS virus in your body. Sometimes people take a drug called DDC
along with AZT. Another drug called ddI has been approved for people who
have bad side effects from AZT.
AZT, DDC and ddI aren't the only treatments used by people with
HIV and AIDS. There are many other treatments used for HIV and AIDS.
They include using Chinese herbs, alpha interferon (Kemron & Immunex),
vitamins and acupuncture. These treatments may not be available in your
institution because they are not approved.
There are also medications available to stop opportunistic
infections. For example, there are several medications approved to
prevent pneumocystis (AIDS-related pneumonia). You should check with your
P.A. or doctor about these treatments.
What is the Difference between HIV and Tuberculosis?
TB is short for a disease called tuberculosis. Unlike HIV, you
can get TB from casual contact. TB is spread through tiny germs in the
air. These germs are spread when someone with TB sneezes, coughs or
shouts. The people nearby can breathe these germs into their lungs. TB
is only spread when the person with TB is in the active stage. During
this time, the person with TB should be in isolation. The rest of the
time you can be around that person. TB is usually curable.
A new form of tuberculosis is being seen now in prisons and jails
called multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). It is much more
dangerous. If caught early, MDR-TB is curable 50% of the time, but in
people with HIV and AIDS the death rate is 70%-90% MDR-TB is also harder
to diagnose. MDR-TB is spread the same way as TB, by tiny germs in the
Sometimes TB germs can live in your body without making you sick.
This is called TB infection. When germs attack the immune system they
cause TB disease. After this happens the germs can attack other parts of
the body like the lungs, kidneys, brain or spine. If you have TB disease,
*lose your appetite
*have a fever
*sweat a lot at night
If you have TB disease in your lungs you may:
*cough a lot
*cough up mucus or phlegm (flem)
*cough up blood
*have chest pain when you cough
The only way to find out if you have TB is by taking a TB skin
test (PPD). Follow-up tests may include chest x-rays. If you are found
to have active TB you will probably be isolated and treated with anti-TB
drugs. There are at least 11 drugs used to treat TB. The 2 most commonly
used in jails and prisons are Isoniazid (INH) and Rifampin (RIF). The
doctor will usually make you take these drugs for 6 months to a year.
It's very important to take these drugs for the whole period because if
you stop treatment, you may be at risk for getting MDR-TB later on.
What if I'm HIV+ and Get TB?
People with HIV and AIDS are more likely to get TB because their
immune systems are weak. In people with HIV and AIDS, TB is more deadly.
It is also harder to diagnose. If you're in the later stages of AIDS your
AIDS symptoms may look like TB symptoms. In most HIV+ people the skin
test will not show a reaction and chest X-rays may show other HIV
infections, not TB. You may need something called a sputum test, where
you cough onto a slide and have it sent to a laboratory to be analyzed for
TB. If both the skin test and chest X-ray come back negative be sure to
ask the medical staff for a sputum test.
If you're HIV+ and think you may have TB, go to sick call right
away. You also may want to be tested once a year for TB. It's very
important to get medical help early because having HIV or AIDS makes it
harder to fight off TB.
How Can I Stay Healthy While I'm in Prison?
It's hard to stay healthy in most prisons even if a person isn't
HIV+. Your life is more stressful than on the outside. You may not like
the food. It may be hard to get enough exercise and fresh air. But if
you are HIV+, you need to focus on your own health, because this could
mean the difference between living longer or getting sick sooner.
Drugs, alcohol and cigarettes can weaken your immune system and
make you get sick sooner. It's a good idea to stop doing drugs and
drinking even though they're available in prison. Stopping smoking
cigarettes is hard because you are under extra stress, but this can make a
big difference in your general health.
Eating healthy can help you stay well longer. If you talk with
the doctor or P.A., you may be able to get a special diet or extra
vitamins. It's important to exercise and get as much fresh air as
possible. And the most important thing to remember is to HAVE A POSITIVE
ATTITUDE. If there is a stress management workshop or support group
available, join it, or talk regularly with a counselor.
What Should I Tell My Family?
If you find out that you are HIV+ while you are in prison, telling
your family may be very hard because you may not know when you will be
able to be with them again. Talk to your health worker, counselor or the
chaplain about getting a contact visit with your family to be able to tell
them about your health in person. If you are far away from home, ask for
a private long-distance phone call, maybe in a counselor's or chaplain's
office. Some members of your family, like your spouse, partner or lover,
may need to know you are HIV+ because you may have passed HIV on to them.
Most young children do not understand about life-threatening
illness. Children want to believe that you are not sick and that you will
come home to them. If you do tell your children, they may be scared about
catching the virus. You will need to educate them about HIV infection.
Remember, you can't give the virus to your babies or children while
playing with them, feeding them or parenting them in other ways (although
the virus can be passed during breastfeeding).
What If A Friend Has HIV or AIDS?
People with HIV hope for the same kind of support and friendship
you have always given them before. They may feel alone, afraid and
uncertain about their relationships and their future. One of the main
worries of prisoners who have AIDS or who are HIV+ is that they will die
while in prison. If you are their friend, you can help by continuing to
talk, doing things together and sharing experiences just as you used to.
It will help for you to educate yourself about HIV disease so you can help
stop rumors and answer other people's questions. If there is a prisoners'
AIDS education group in your institution, you could join it and tell other
prisoners to learn more about AIDS. If there isn't one, you could start
What Are My Rights in Prison If I'm HIV+?
In general, being HIV+ shouldn't stop you from getting any job or
education program while you're in prison. Unless you are very ill, or
can't handle being in population, it shouldn't change where you are
housed, either. A small number of states do segregate everyone who is
HIV+ and some states segregate prisoners with AIDS. However, most states
do not separate HIV+ from HIV- prisoners. No matter how you are housed,
your HIV+ status should not change your equal access to programs inside
the prison. You are supposed to be allowed to go to the law library;
participate in work, school and recreation programs; have furloughs or
family visits; use the regular visiting room; go to church, synagogue, or
mosque; go to the Parole Board -- just like any other prisoner. If you
are HIV+ and you are being denied access to any prison program because of
your HIV status, contact the ACLU National Prison Project or a local
prisoners' legal services group for help.
The right to have your medical status kept confidential between
health services and yourself is a major issue for HIV+ prisoners. You do
have a right to privacy. Even in prison or jail, your HIV status should
not be a topic for open discussion among other prisoners and officers. If
you feel that your confidentiality rights have been violated, contact your
local ACLU chapter or the National Prison Project office.
There are many other questions that you may have about HIV and
AIDS whatever your HIV status is. You may want to write to a local AIDS
service organization for more brochures and information. You may want to
start an AIDS education group in your prison. You may feel like you are
not getting the right kind of medical care or feel discriminated against.
You might have more questions about how you get the virus. There's
probably not one place to get this information. In general, local
American Red Cross chapters, AIDS service organizations and public health
departments will send you information. Listed below are some
organizations that send packets of information to prisoners about HIV and
AIDS. Write to them today.
ACLU National Prison Project
1875 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
National AIDS Information Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 6003
Rockville, MD 20850
American Foundation for AIDS Research
Prison Library/HIV/AIDS Treatment Info.
733 3rd Ave.
New York, New York 10017
ACT UP/San Francisco
Prison Issues Committee
P.O. Box 14844
San Francisco CA 94114
ACT UP/New York
Prison Issues Committee
135 W. 29th Street
New York NY 10001
GCN Prison Book Program
92 Green Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
AIDS In Prison Project
Alliance For Inmates With AIDS
Correctional Association of New York
135 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003
Indiana HIV Advocacy
1532 N. Alabama St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Correctional Services Program
3030 Walnut St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
2224 Main Street
Little Rock AR 72206
3626 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
The Body Positive
New York, NY 10023
PWA Coalition Newsline
31 W. 26th St.
New York, NY 10010
Prisoners With AIDS Rights
Advocacy Group (PWA-RAG)
P.O. Box 2161
Jonesboro, GA 30237
Critical Path AIDS Project
2062 Lombard St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
31 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010
277 Prospect Ave.
Hackensack, NJ 07601
AIDS Education Awareness
Program In Prison
P.O. Box 466
Gardner, MA 01440
Five Steps You Can Take To Educate Others About HIV/AIDS
1. Start a peer education program.
2. Develop your own HIV/AIDS library.
3. Invite a speaker from a local AIDS service
organization to make a presentation.
4. Organize a "HIV/AIDS Speakout" for prisoners and staff.
5. Write your own HIV/AIDS pamphlet.
Meanings Of the Words
AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is when you have
life-threatening infections, viruses or diseases which you can't get over
because your immune system has been weakened by HIV.
Antibody: A substance made by the body to fight infections. The presence
of antibodies in a person's body shows that the person has been exposed to
Asymptomatic: The word for a person who tests positive to HIV but shows
no signs of illness.
AZT: An anti-viral drug used to treat HIV. Also called zidovudine.
Confidentiality: The right to have your HIV status kept private between
the medical staff and yourself.
DDC: An anti-viral drug used with AZT to treat HIV.
ddI: An anti-viral drug used to treat HIV.
ELISA: A test used to find antibodies to HIV which would show HIV
infection. This is the first test used to find out if a person is
infected with HIV, but it should never be used to diagnose HIV infection
without a Western Blot test also.
HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS.
HIV makes your immune system weak. It will take longer to get over a cold
or infection. HIV is a virus which will eventually lead to AIDS.
HIV Positive: A test result that shows a person has been infected with
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV Negative: A test result that shows a person has not been infected
with Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Immune system: What your body uses to fight infections, colds and
Opportunistic Infection: An infection that people with HIV disease get
because their immune systems are weak. There are many types of
Safer Sex: When body fluids from one person do not go into another
Symptomatic: A word for an HIV positive person who gets sick with some of
the signs of AIDS like weight loss, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia,
diarrhea, thrush or kaposi's sarcoma.
T-cells: These are white blood cells that protect the immune system from
being hurt. There are 3 basic types of T-cells, helper, filler and
Western Blot: A more sensitive blood test than the ELISA test used to
find out if a person has AIDS antibodies. This is a test used to confirm
exposure to AIDS.
NPP AIDS Information Order Form
Bulk orders available for:
_____ 100 copies, $25
_____ 500 copies, $100
_____ 1,000 copies, $150
_____ AIDS IN PRISON BIBLIOGRAPHY. Lists resources on AIDS in prison
available from the National Prison Project and other sources. 41 pages. $5
_____ NPP Journal. Regular column on AIDS and prison issues in the
National Prison Project Journal, which features stories on corrections and
criminal justice issues; Case Law Report. $30 prepaid/$2 for prisoners.
Fill out and send with check payable to National Prison Project to: AIDS
Booklet, The National Prison Project, 1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite
410, Washington D.C. 20009; or call 202/234-4830.
NOTE: The National Prison Project produced this booklet to help teach
people about AIDS and how to avoid getting infected. We want it to be
distributed as widely as possible. You should know that just because your
institution's officials agreed to pass out this booklet does not mean that
they support your violating institutional policy or the law. If you are
caught in illegal sex or drug use, you will be dealt with in the usual
manner of your institution.
We would like to thank Linda Evans, the principal author, and
Alison Bechdel, the illustrator, for their valuable contributions to this
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