CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION RELEASES REPORT: “HIV SERVICES FOR WOMEN IN NEW YORK STATE PRISONS”

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(October 22, 2015, New York, NY)  Today, the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released a report entitled, “HIV Services for Women in New York State Prisons,”    New York has the highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated people and the second-highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated women of all prison systems in the country.   The 31-page report, based on data from the CA’s comprehensive 5-year study, ”Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons,” contains significant findings on gynecological care for HIV-positive women and HIV services for incarcerated pregnant women.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  1. Women have access to HIV services but stigma, discrimination and a lack of confidentiality remain serious barriers for incarcerated women in accessing these services
  2. More work is needed to confirm the number of HIV-positive women in DOCCS and create conditions under which  incarcerated women feel comfortable revealing their HIV status
  3. DOCCS does a solid job offering HIV testing to women,  but there is room for improvement
  4. Women have access to valuable HIV peer education services but the quality of HIV information that women receive needs improvement

According to the report’s co-author, Andrea B. Williams, Program Director of the CA’s Reconnect Program, “The women we surveyed want more peer-based efforts, and for the state to tighten its controls regarding the confidentiality of people’s HIV health information. Stigma silences and hurts women, who continue to make the decision to hold back even their general HIV health questions rather than subject themselves to possible ridicule and isolation.”

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Provide security and civilian staff with comprehensive training on HIV and working with people living with HIV.
  • Offer HIV testing to all women entering DOCCS custody.
  • Provide more funding to expand the role of trained peer educators in HIV programs and all other programs in DOCCS. Make HIV services, and all other services in DOCCS< trauma-informed.
  • Improve the quality of HIV information available to women, and ensure that information id up-to-date and in formats accessible for women with low literacy skills and women who are not fluent in English.

Jack Beck, Director of the CA’s Prison Visiting Project and a member of New York’s Ending the Epidemic Task Force, notes: “The Governor’s 2015 Blueprint to End AIDS recognizes that to reduce HIV infections in the state, incarcerated HIV-positive people must have expanded HIV services to encourage them to get tested and to stay engaged in care.  This is critical to ensuring a continuity of care to community-based HIV services for people returning home.”

Russelle Miller-Hill, a community organizer and advocate, who is also a member of the National Black Leadership Commission in AIDS,  and a reviewer of the report, said, “The report continues to identify the gaps in services in addition to discrimination and stigma still endured by women in correctional settings. Education of both Correctional staff and the inmate population continues to be the key to bringing attention to the needs of women behind the bars.” 

The release of this report is part of the Women in Prison Project’s Campaign to End Reproductive Injustice, which monitors, reports on, and advocates for improvements in reproductive health care for women incarcerated in the state of New York.

Ms. Williams, the report’s co-author, concluded: “The state should seize the opportunity to be guided by the women’s feedback and take active steps to strengthen HIV prevention and health care for women inside the walls.”

For more information on the Campaign, visit: http://www.correctionalassociation.org/resource/reproductive-injustice