Program Provides Treatment For Prison-Released HIV-Positive Women

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- It takes a community to help HIV-positive women released from prison.

A prison-release program for HIV-positive women successfully links clients with medical care and substance-abuse treatment on release from prison, resulting in a more than 50-percent decrease in the recidivism rate, say Brown University medical personnel, reporting in the American Journal of Public Health. They say the program could serve as a model for other states to meet the need for community follow-up for HIV-positive women released from prison.

During the first year of the program, 41 HIV-positive women were released from prison. Among them, 34 followed up with medical care, and 34 of 39 women received aid from either general public assistance or Social Security disability. Twenty-one of 31 women entered into a substance abuse treatment program after release. Of the 14 women who had no place to live, 8 were placed in an apartment or group home.

Women in the prison release program's first year had recidivism rates of 12 percent within six months and 17 percent within 12 months. For comparison, a randomly selected group of 41 HIV-positive women at the state prison who were not in the program had recidivism rates of 27 percent within six months and 39 percent within one year. Forty-one HIV-negative women who had release dates and charges that matched those of participants in the prison release program had recidivism rates of 22 percent within six months and 37 percent within 12 months.

Prisons are key sites to provide initial HIV-related care and links to community follow-up. Between 1989 and 1993, for example, 39 percent of all HIV-infected women in Rhode Island were first diagnosed with the virus in the state prison.

Upon release from prison, HIV-positive women frequently lack primary medical and gynecological care, substance abuse treatment and psychological and social support. The Brown University AIDS program, with the Rhode Island departments

Contact: Scott Turner
Brown University

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