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Dual epidemics of incarceration and HIV explored in Positively Aware magazine

CHICAGO – The May+June issue of Positively Aware magazine takes an in-depth look at how the criminal justice system has played a role in the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

“The U.S. is a superpower when it comes to locking people up,” said Dr. David Wohl, co-director of the University of North Carolina’s AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, and a contributor to the issue. “We have 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners.”

According to government estimates, there are about 22,000 people with HIV in prison, and another 11,000 estimated to be in jails where people are housed before conviction and transfer to prison.

Wohl points out that while there are documented cases of HIV transmission within prison, the “lion’s share” of HIV-positive individuals in prison have acquired the virus outside of prison walls.

Dr. Chad Zawitz, clinical coordinator of HIV/Infectious Disease Services at Cook County Jail in Chicago, and another contributor to this issue of the magazine, provides insight on the cost-effectiveness of opt-out testing for STDs and HIV for those who are incarcerated. Also covered in this issue are some of the things that often lead women to prison as well as putting them at risk for acquiring HIV, and the effect incarceration has on the relationships of inmates with family, friends and community.

In a related topic, HIV-criminalization laws are on rise in this country, and activist Sean Strub, co-founder of the Positive Justice Project, takes a closer look at how the laws that criminalize HIV came to be, the effects that these laws really have, and what we need to do to begin to change them.

Positively Aware, now in its 23rd year, is an international magazine devoted to HIV treatment and health, has a circulation of 100,000 and is published bi-monthly by Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN). Founded in 1987, TPAN is Chicago’s oldest peer-led AIDS service organization and specializes in treatment information, support services, and prevention.

For more information about TPAN and Positively Aware magazine visit www.tpan.com and www.positivelyaware.com.