A recent study shows that one simple change would likely slash HIV/AIDS rates in this key population.
Science has come a long way in the past 20 years toward reaching a solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but a new study identifies a critical population that is still at a perilously high risk for transmitting the disease. According to a UPI report, a recent study highlighted the fact that high prison sentences that keep inmates locked up for longer periods of time have been resulting in a higher rate of transmission of HIV and AIDS.
Scientists at the University of Michigan used a computer model to show that by sending more men and women to prison for longer terms, the number of sexual partners they have is likely to increase, and thus the likelihood of transmitting HIV/AIDS is likely to increase as well.
The study focused more heavily on men than women, as the rates of male incarceration in the U.S. are much higher for males. For every 100,000 men in the U.S., 954 were incarcerated in 2009. For every 100,000 women, only 68 were incarcerated in the same year.
According to Dr. Andrea Knittel, a scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, “The model shows that simply removing men and returning them to the community frequently can increase the number of sexual partners that both men and women have in the community. It supports the assertion that mass incarceration has complicated and far-reaching unintended consequences, and may have significant public health implications.”
The study was published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, and uses a model community that is intended to simulate 250 people and their potential sexual interactions. As the model’s parameter for incarceration was increased, scientists found that the number of sexual partners a given person had increased as well.
Dr. Knittel and colleagues showed that higher levels of incarceration led to an increased risk for the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. While the study alone isn’t enough to justify releasing prisoners en masse just yet, it may be useful while considering a broader reform of the criminal justice system and the societal implications of its current setup.
A press release describing the details of the study can be found here.