Maxine Waters Tackles Disastrous HIV Spread in Prisons

By Malena Amusa Feb 05, 2007

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has, again, introduced legislation in the House that would have inmates take routine HIV tests as a part of their comprehensive medical exams. According to the plan, prisoners would receive pre- and post- test couseling and prison officials would be trained in confidentiality. Inmates can also opt out of testing if they choose. Though there’s some debate about whether mandatory testing schemes will incite violence and criminalization, Waters is doing more than her colleagues by putting forth a proposal that takes the issue of HIV/AIDS in the Black community seriously. Follow the logic: The majority of people entering prisons are black and Latino. In jail, HIV rates soar three to five times past the standard population. Inmates, largely men, exposed to HIV in prison unknowingly infect their partners when they leave. Women of color end up the fastest growing group of HIV positive people in the nation. Obviously the story isn’t quite that simple, but there’s much to be done. Ms. Waters is at the very least open up the debate around one of the many factors that drives the spread of HIV along the color line.