HIV-positive prison inmates still regularly experience dangerous lapses in treatment after discharge, say studies quoted by the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. Only 20 percent of inmates enrolled in an HIV clinic within 30 days of their release, and only 28 percent did so within 90 days. It’s a problem with consequences beyond the personal health of the offenders. Interruptions in medication increase the risk of transmission, can lead to medication-resistant strains of HIV, and often require more costly treatment later.
Health officials have launched initiatives to end the lapses, including using telemedicine to connect HIV-positive prisoners with local AIDS organizations that can assist them when they return to their communities. Success depends on the personal responsibility of the former inmate. “Once they leave prison, we no longer have any control over what they do,” said Owen Murray of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, which provides health care to most Texas prison inmates. “We can’t drive to their houses and make sure they go the clinic. I really think the state is doing everything it can do.” Former prisoners report several obstacles to getting medication, AIDS outreach workers say. Many are unsure where they will live after discharge, lacking homes and families to which they can return.