Report Finds Mass Incarceration Undermines Efforts to Address Domestic HIV/AIDS Epidemic

nmac_blocksNational Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Critical Opportunity to Address Intersection of Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV Vulnerability

Washington, DC – As the nation prepares to mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) on February 7, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) and Housing Works, with support from the Ford Foundation, have released a new report titled “Mass Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV/AIDS,” examining the intersection between incarceration, homelessness and HIV vulnerability, especially within the African American community.

African Americans make up only 12 percent of America’s population, but account for 44 percent of new HIV infections and almost half of all AIDS diagnoses in the United States, with black gay men facing the heaviest disease burden of any group.  At the same time, despite similar rates of criminal conduct, African American males are more than six times as likely to be incarcerated as their white counterparts.  Loss of income, poor health, interruption of intimate relationships, and pre-existing social disadvantages coalesce to make it difficult for many people living with HIV to secure or maintain adequate housing.  Histories of incarceration only exacerbate these pressures further.

“While it has long been understood that incarceration increases an individual’s vulnerability to HIV, many have assumed that this is the result of increased risk behavior or exposure while in prison,” said NMAC Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Kali Lindsey.  “In reality, the evidence suggests that it is housing instability and the interruption of medical care resulting from incarceration that has the greatest impact on HIV vulnerability.  With 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned population, our nation’s culture of mass incarceration has created a devastating and self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, homelessness, and criminal justice involvement that undermines our ability to successfully combat the spread of HIV, especially among African Americans.”

The newly released report includes several recommendations to address this cycle of vulnerability, such as:

  • reforming our criminal justice and sentencing practices;
  • allowing formerly incarcerated persons access to federal housing and homeless assistance programs;
  • removing post-incarceration barriers to subsistence income and health insurance;
  • improving pre-release planning for inmates living with HIV or AIDS; and
  • evaluating the effectiveness of housing-based interventions for formerly incarcerated persons living with HIV.

“With the science we now have on effectively treating people living with HIV or AIDS, as well as preventing its onward transmission, it is all the more urgent that we implement structural interventions that will render the maximum benefit from treatment and prevention,” said Housing Works Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing Christine Campbell.  “This must include not only addressing the housing and health care needs of those leaving the correctional system, but also addressing our system of mass incarceration as a whole.”

The new report, “Mass Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV/AIDS” can be downloaded online here:  http://www.nmac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Incarceration-Report-FINAL_2-6-13.pdf.

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Contact:  Kyle Murphy, (202) 483-6622 ext. 3330
kmurphy@nmac.org