Women Prisoners and HIV

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Incarcerated Women & HIV/Hepatitis C Fact Sheet HIV/AIDS

  • Experiences that often lead women to become involved in criminalized behavior – drug abuse, sex work, poverty, unemployment, and domestic violence and trauma– are also experiences that put women at risk for HIV and Hepatitis C infection.
  • At year-end 2005, New York State had 4,000 inmates (350 women and 3,650 men) living with HIV, down from 7,000 in 1999.
  • New York has the largest number of HIV-infected incarcerated people5 and second largest number of HIV-positive incarcerated women of all prison systems in the country.
  • 12.2% of women in New York’s prisons are HIV positive – a rate of infection more than double the rate for male inmates (6%) and 80 times higher than the rate in the general public (.15%).
  • As rates of HIV are disproportionately high among African-American and Latina women in the general public, HIV disproportionately impacts incarcerated women of color.
  • New York has the largest number of HIV positive jail inmates in the country – 1,359 in 1999.
  • A 1999 New York City Department of Health study found that more than 18% of women entering the city jail system were living with HIV compared to 7.6% of men. This study also found that African American women accounted for over 21% of HIV positive cases; almost 14% were Latina and about 12% were Caucasian.
  • The number of AIDS-related deaths in New York’s prisons dropped about 94% from 1994 (244) to 2006 (14).

Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral disease that attacks the liver. People infected with HIV are often co-infected with HCV: approximately 30% of all people living with HIV in the general public are co-infected with HCV. Effective HIV prevention must also include a focus on HCV.
  • The New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) estimates that more than 15% of HIV positive inmates are known to be co-infected with HCV. People who are co-infected with HIV and HCV sometimes experience an accelerated progression of HCV.
  • An estimated 22.1% of women and 12.8% of men in New York State prisons are infected with HCV.
  • The rate of HCV infection among New York’s women prisoners is more than 14 times higher than the HCV infection rate in the general public (1.6%).
  • HCV is especially prevalent among women incarcerated for crimes related to sex work and drug addiction.
  • Because HIV and HCV have shared routes of infection (blood), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Infectious Disease Society of America recommend screening all people with HIV for HCV.

Identification of HIV and HCV in Prison

  • DOCS has only identified an estimated 45% of its HIV positive population and 70% of its HCV-infected population, leaving hundreds of incarcerated individuals without appropriate monitoring or treatment.
  • Just under 62% of HIV positive women at Bedford Hills, Albion, Taconic and Bayview correctional facilities were receiving HIV medication in 2005-2006. Only 4% of women with HCV at these facilities were on treatment for HCV.(Note: not all people with HCV are appropriate candidates for treatment.)

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