Thursday, July 5, 2018

Linkages to Care During Post-Incarceration

By: Jonathan J. Pena, intern, ADAP Advocacy Association, and rising junior in social work, North Carolina State University

The ADAP Advocacy Association late last year announced its Correctional Health Project, which 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. A subsequent blog also focused on the issue. While this approach is an effort to sharpen the scope and need for access to care and treatment for HIV-infection (and/or HCV) among formally incarcerated populations, it is equally important to widen to the lens just for a minute in order to see where we stand globally on the issue of incarceration.

Incarceration rates are highest in the United States out of any country, which translates to 910 per 100,000 adults.[1] When you factor in the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S, a sixth of this population are entering prisons and jails and also transitioning back into their communities.[2] This sets the stage for an enormous request to address the needs of these populations so that the public health system may begin to seal the cracks that they fall through by utilizing accurate assessments and combining it with proactive case management in order to link them to care.

Programs do exist, such as State ADAPs, which are designed to assist these individuals. But the most recent National ADAP Monitoring Project demonstrates that ADAPs are assisting some of these individuals, it is also clear more can be done to assist them. The National AIDS Strategy also provides some guidance to help formerly incarcerated populations achieve viral suppression.

Viral suppression is crucial for HIV-positive ex-offenders during post-incarceration but the challenges that they face can seem monstrous and when faced with so many immediate competing needs like housing, food and transportation, continuity of viral suppression may fall by the waste side. Very often the linkage to care is lost for these populations due to poor discharge planning and thus limited access to quality based community programs. As a result the natural onset of vulnerability that is placed on an HIV-positive ex-offender is amplified when re-entering their communities that the possibility for them to engage in risky behavior like drug use, and transactional unprotect sex to maintain goods increases. These negative affects of poor discharge planning not only hurts the ex-offender but also hurts those within their community with other possible new cases of infection if they are not adherent to their medication.

Staying Strong Inside
Photo Source: SERO

Jails and prison systems are such dynamic institutions that they face additional compounding challenges to providing heath services other than HIV. With such a revolving door, these institutions have to tackle issues like addiction and mental illness. However, what seems to be alarming is the rate of HCV infections. A team of researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney pooled together a series of data from 196 countries spanning from 2005 through 2015 that aimed at determining the number of inmates with HIV, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and TB. This data indicated that out of 10 million inmates, HCV ranked at the top with 15.1% of infections and with HIV estimated at 3.8% of infections.[3]

As the ADAP Advocacy Association's Correctional Health Project continues to take shape, it is important to convey some of the needs driving our interest behind it. Important community resources will be made available in a few months.

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[1]  The Lancet HIV. (2017, November 27). Predictors of linkage to HIV care and  suppression after release from jails and prison: a retrospective cohort study. Retrieved from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhiv/article/PIIS2352-3018(17)30209-6/fulltext?code=lancet-site
[2] The Lancet HIV. (2017, November 27). Predictors of linkage to HIV care and  suppression after release from jails and prison: a retrospective cohort study. Retrieved from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhiv/article/PIIS2352-3018(17)30209-6/fulltext?code=lancet-site
[3] HIVandHepatitis. (2016, September 07). AIDS 2016: Neglect of Infectious Disease in Prisons Highlighted at Conference. Retrieved from: http://www.hivandhepatitis.com/hiv-epidemiology/5845-aids-2016-neglect-of-infectious-disease-in-prisons-highlighted-at-conference




Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates.

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