The link between high rates of imprisonment among African Americans and high rates of H.I.V. and AIDS is explored by the New York Times. While many studies have documented the prevalence of the disease in prisons, researchers are now examining how patterns of incarceration affect its transmission beyond prison walls. The health consequences cut across lines of class, said Dr. Peter Leone of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “You’re not even looking at six degrees of separation in most black social networks between a disenfranchised former inmate and someone who is in college or highly respected in the community.”
Experts say high incarceration rates increase risk behaviors associated with H.I.V. by skewing the ratio of women to men, worsening economic conditions, and increasing the social capital of men who are not imprisoned. Blacks now account for more than half of all new H.I.V. infections. As the AIDS epidemic has spread, the number of people incarcerated has also soared, to nearly 2.1 million; more than 40 percent are black. As the number of people living with H.I.V. increases, and with 600,000 prisoners re-entering society each year, researchers are starting to address the two issues as intertwined epidemics requiring combined prevention and treatment strategies.