The ADAP Advocacy Association announced earlier this month that it has launched a new project to improve access to care and treatment for correctional inmates living with HIV/AIDS who are transitioning back into community life. The project – “Improving Access to Care Among Formerly Incarcerated Populations with HIV/AIDS under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)” – aims to raise awareness about issues confronting formerly incarcerated populations living with HIV/AIDS (and/or Hepatitis C) who also access care and treatment (or whom could benefit from such care and treatment) under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), as well as provide useful resources and tools to the communities serving them.
The data on the number of formerly incarcerated populations infected with HIV/AIDS (and/or HCV), in many cases, simply isn’t available. In fact, most states’ epidemiology reports that did report HCV numbers didn’t account for incarcerated populations. What data is available is woefully out of date, using data four years or older. The data on HIV isn’t much better.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, updated on March 14, 2017, cites numbers from 2010 – seven years prior to the most recent update. The data cited is obtained from a 2012 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – revised in March 2015 – that looked at HIV in prisons and jails from 2001-2010. What used to be an annual report with yearly updates from 1993-2008, has apparently been shelved, over the past decade. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a replacement from any government agency.
The BJS report indicated a few very important findings:
- In 2010, there were 20,093 inmates in state and federal prisons infected with HIV, representing 1.5% of the total incarcerated population. 3,913 of those inmates were living with an AIDS diagnosis.
- Of the total HIV-infected population, 91% were male. African-American (AA) men were 5 times as likely to be diagnosed than White men, and twice as likely as Hispanic/Latino men. AA women were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with HIV than both White and Hispanic/Latino women.
- Rates of AIDS-related deaths among state and federal prisoners declined an average of 16% a year from 2001 to 2010, from 24 deaths/100,000 in 2001 to 5/100,000 in 2010.
Other than those numbers, there isn’t a lot of information that is readily available to the public, which is troubling for a number of reasons.
- HIV remains a deadly disease that, when left untreated and/or undiagnosed, can lead to numerous life-threatening complications and death;
- Incarceration settings are notorious for being hotbeds of transmission for a host of sexually transmitted diseases; and
- This failure to present regular data updates may mean that prisons and jails are not complying with regulations requiring that all inmates be screened for HIV.
The CDC does, however, tout support for a number of community-based pilot projects, including Project START, Project Power, a partnership with Emory University (based in Atlanta) focused on juvenile AA girls aged 13-17, and a partnership with Morehouse Medical School to counsel AA male jail inmates about high-risk sexual behaviors and how to reduce them. These programs are designed to help male and female inmates understand the risk associated with certain behaviors, as well as prevention strategies to be used both within and outside of incarceration settings.
One of the most frustrating aspects of conducting any research is the lack of information available to the public. Disease statistics are the foundation for making good policy at all levels of government, which means that, in order for citizens, legislators, and executives to craft data-driven, meaningful legislation and regulations, these data must be present. The data must be easily accessible, regularly updated (annually), and reliable. At this point, that data is simply unavailable, which further leads to the need for greater awareness, and clearer guidelines on linkages to care.
What makes this approach vitally important is that access to care and treatment for HIV-infection (and/or HCV) is something that is sorely lacking in the areas that are hardest hit; not just HIV education, really – healthcare literacy in general is an issue. As such, there is a need to work on ways to get people to actually care about their health; help to identify the appropriate linkages to care; and engage in successful care and treatment strategies that will lead them to be Virally Suppressed.
Available supports and services are going unused in too many ADAP jurisdictions, evidenced by data shared in the 2017 National ADAP Monitoring Project Annual Report (as seen in the charts below).
There exists a need to raise awareness among key stakeholders – among them, ADAP Directors, community service providers, and state/local advocacy organizations – about existing and emerging issues confronting formerly incarcerated populations. Furthermore, there is a need to model existing best practices to ADAP across the 50 states and territories in the United States.
To that end, key elements of the project include:
1. Community Forum on Formerly Incarcerated Populations & Provider Friendly Care;
2. Animated Video on Formerly Incarcerated Populations & Linkages to Care;
3. Infographic on Ryan White/ADAP Serving Formerly Incarcerated Populations;
4. White Paper on Model Policy for Ryan White/ADAP Serving Formerly Incarcerated Populations; and
5. Twitter Chat on Ryan White/ADAP Serving Formerly Incarcerated Populations.
The project will execute all of the key elements between September 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, March 14). HIV Among Incarcerated Populations. Atlanta, GA: United States Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Tuberculosis Prevention: Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/correctional.html
 Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2012, September 13). HIV in Prisons, 2001-2010 (NCJ 238877). Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hivp10.pdf
 National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (2017, May 18); 2017 National ADAP Monitoring Project Annual Report; p. 24. Retrieved from http://www.nastad.org/sites/default/files/2017-national-adap-monitoring-project-annual-report.pdf.