Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Justice for the Unprotected against Sexually Transmitted Infections among the Confined and Exposed (JUSTICE) Act to address the spread of sexually transmitted infections in the federal prison system. The legislation expands access to STI prevention methods, testing, treatment, and counseling for incarcerated persons.
“This week, we marked National HIV Testing Day, but we must also recognize the reality that HIV testing, treatment, and counseling remains unavailable for thousands of people currently incarcerated in our federal prison system,” said Congresswoman Lee. “In order to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, we must seriously confront the spread of STIs among incarcerated persons.”
The incarcerated population is affected by HIV and other STIs at a higher rate than the general population, with incarcerated minorities carrying an even heavier burden. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 16-41% of incarcerated persons have been infected with hepatitis C, compared to just 1-1.5% of the general population.
Yet, despite their effectiveness at reducing STI transmission, the vast majority of prisons do not make condoms and lubricants available. Many prisons also do not provide STI testing, treatment or counseling resources, leaving many infected prisoners unaware of their status when they reenter their communities.
In addition to providing STI treatment in prison, the JUSTICE Act ensures that there will be no disruptions in Medicaid coverage for people living with HIV upon their discharge from prison. The legislation also expands eligibility for housing assistance for formerly incarcerated persons diagnosed with an STI.
“The JUSTICE Act provides a sorely needed public health strategy to deal with the concerning spread of STIs among incarcerated persons,” said Congresswoman Lee. “By ensuring access to STI prevention methods, testing, and treatment in the federal prison system, we can take concrete steps towards reducing HIV infection rates.”
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