The death rate of Massachusetts prisoners has dropped by half, with an even more drastic reduction in deaths related to AIDS, the Associated Press reports. The change was largely was due to fewer inmates with AIDS, and better treatment for HIV. The number of prison deaths in Massachusetts declined from 36 in 1995 to 17 in 2002, and 13 so far this year. Deaths related to AIDS dropped from 14 in 1995 to two in 2000, the last year data were available.
“Just like in the community, people are living longer with HIV,” Dr. Arthur Brewer, medical director of the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health, told The Boston Globe. Recent state aid cuts to AIDS groups could mean that inmates within prison walls get better treatment than low-income people outside. “The medical care that people get in prison at this moment in time in some cases supersedes the level of care they get out of prison,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, who served on a blue ribbon panel in 1992 investigating allegations of inadequate care for inmates with AIDS.
The Massachusetts death rate decline mirrors nationwide trends. In 1995, a third of all state prison deaths were due to AIDS-related diseases, but that dropped to six percent in 2000, says the Bureau of Justice Statistics.