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Is the Segregation of HIV-Positive Inmates Ethical?

Segregation of HIV-positive inmates is unethical. Everyone deserves to be integrated into society and segregation of HIV-positive inmates is unethical and unnecessary.

Segregation of HIV-positive inmates is unethical. Everyone deserves to be integrated into society and segregation of HIV-positive inmates is unethical and unnecessary. Segregation of these inmates brings forth a situation of discrimination based on health issues which can bring forth law-suits and demise within the jail. Below are studies that have come forth since the deliberation of the segregation process of HIV inmates. This article displayed is according to Emily Bass.

“Does segregating prisoners reduce rates of HIV transmission? Supporters say so, but so far no studies have proved it. Even with better data, experts agree that the key to fighting HIV isn’t segregation. “Even if we knew on a minute-by-minute basis who was positive in prison, you would still need better education and prevention,” says prison and public health expert Ted Hammett. So who’s right? (Emily Bass)

Fiction: Segregated programs protect the general prison population from HIV.
Fact: It’s impossible to identify all HIV-positive prisoners, even with mandatory testing on entry. Many test negative during the window period of early infection and enter the general population with a false sense of security” (Emily Bass).

Fiction: Segregated programs reduce rates of seroconversion.
Fact: To date, there have been no reliable studies of seroconversion in segregated programs. Alabama, for example, has mandatory testing on entry, but court records documenting exit testing reveal a slipshod survey: If the inconclusive ELISA test comes back positive, the inmate has a second ELISA. If that is positive, a Western Blot test is done. But it’s possible that the inmate will be released before testing is completed, so there’s no way of knowing how many prisoners seroconvert while on the inside” (Emily Bass).

Fiction: High seroconversion rates in prison have been well documented.
Fact: A recent Florida study found an alarming 21 percent seroconversion rate-but it tested only self-selected prisoners, quite likely a higher-risk group. A similar study in Illinois found an 0.7 percent rate in 140 prisoners incarcerated for more than 20 years. Just because there’s a lot of HIV in prisons doesn’t mean people are catching it on the inside” (Emily Bass).

Fiction: Segregation helps reduce transmission via rape.
Fact: Sexual assault and HIV are separate problems with different solutions. Fighting the virus takes education and practical prevention tools, such as clean needles and condoms. Stopping rape requires effective surveillance and discipline of prisoners and guards. Confusing the two can be dangerous, if not deadly, to those on the inside” (Emily Bass).

As a registered nurse and with 24 years of experience I believe that people do not acquire the HIV virus from casual contact. Just because someone is a prisoner in jail, does not mean he or she is going to acquire the HIV virus. Stupidity comforts the politicians who yet think that segregating the HIV inmates is the right thing to do, and prevents more of the virus from spreading. I disagree with that philosophy of thinking. If the chances of HIV increased if one walks into a prison cell, then everyone would have the virus. People spread the virus by sexual contact as well as sharing needles—which is commonly associated with Hepatitis C.

The studies listed above in Emily’s article depict all the flaws that are common in performing them. No true testing is accurate unless it is performed under scrupulous conditions and highly monitored for results. Many of the testing that goes on in jails are not done with close supervision and are not precise. Sometimes the testing results are mixed up within the labs that are delivering the results. I have seen this many times over the past 24 years. Nothing is perfect when it comes to testing regarding lab results.

HIV needs to be treated and also needs to be considered to be of private knowledge under the

HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 Privacy Rule) health care act. By segregating inmates because of their health, one would say that besides the discrimination, a law is being broken which in retrospect is designated to protect health care information regarding patients with known health issues. Health care issues included within HIPPA are all health issues and does not exclude the HIV acquired virus.


Bass, E. (2000). Separate but equal? Weighing the pros and cons of quarantine. Retrieved June

22nd, 2009 from

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Understanding HIPAA Privacy. Retrieved June

22nd, 2009 from

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