In 2018, prisons across 17 states went on strike to protest the horrendous conditions of the United States’ prison system. The protests provided clear demands of what was needed—the abolishment of prison slavery, voting rights, and immediate improvement to prison conditions, to name a few.
As 2018 ended, and 2019 has begun, many of these demands are still left unfulfilled. At Fulton County Jail, this statement couldn’t ring truer. Last year, less than two-thirds of the HIV-positive people incarcerated there went without HIV medication. Up until August, the percentage of individuals receiving HIV medication was around 70 percent. By October, that number was at 41.7 percent. It was also revealed the Fulton County Jail stopped the use of 1,000 rapid HIV testing kits. Upon hearing this knowledge, HIV experts quickly chastised the jail, claiming it “couldn’t care less about public health.”
“For the commissioners to renew their contract with NaphCare and less than half of inmates received HIV meds in modern times is a crime and it is malpractice for the medical professionals delivering services,” HIV activist Daniel Driffin said.
The company he’s referring to—NaphCare—provides healthcare to correctional facilities in 25 states. After a slew of deaths in 2017, the jail signed the company for the 2018 year. Recently, the nearly $23 million contract was renewed by the Fulton County Commission, despite the startling percentages.
Naturally, jail officials were quick to defend themselves.
“The doctor determines who is prescribed what. The population is constantly changing, which affects the numbers,” said Tracy Flanagan, spokesperson for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.
Naphcare also disputed the claims from HIV experts and activists.
“These patients are currently cared for by our full-time infectious disease nurse practitioner with support from our on-site doctors, corporate chief medical officer, and a consulting infectious disease doctor,” said spokesperson Stephanie Coleman.
While spokespeople from both the jail and the medical company attempted to defend themselves, the fact remains that under their supervision more than half of the people living with HIV are not receiving the medication they need. More than half of the people who need it are being let down by an entire system.
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