Alabama state prisons are the focus of a class action suit for unfairly separating inmates infected with HIV from the general population. According to a blog posted on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) site, the “HIV ghetto” is evident upon entering institutions like the Limestone Correctional Facility. Prisoners are required to wear a white armband at all times, to ensure that everyone is aware of their status:
Segregating prisoners living with HIV is a holdover from the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Back then – when transmission risks weren't fully understood, there was no effective treatment, HIV was a death sentence, and people with HIV were treated like pariahs—most prison systems experimented with HIV segregation. Today, however, the Centers for Disease Control oppose HIV segregation as irrational and counter-productive, and every state in the nation has repudiated HIV segregation—except for Alabama and South Carolina.
Prison officials claim that the segregation is necessary in providing the inmates with the proper medical care, but was also put in place for financial reason, and to help curb outbreaks of the virus in the institutions. However, Margaret Winter, of the ACLU's National Prison Project, disagrees. “The absolute most important thing which has made transmission plummet in prisons is the use of the new anti-retroviral therapies,” Winter told the Huffington Post. “Medical care providers are now allowed to start treatment as soon as someone tests positive for HIV. When that happens, in the vast majority of cases, the virus drops to an undetected level.
“The only point of the system is to keep prisoners out of scores of incredibly important rehabilitative and vocational programs because they have HIV. It's a sham,” she added.
A trial date for the lawsuit has been set for Monday (Sept. 17), and is expected to last for a month.