HIV/AIDS among inmates of and releasees from US correctional facilities, 2006: declining share of epidemic but persistent public health opportunity

PLoS One. 2009 Nov 11;4(11):e7558. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007558.


Because certain groups at high risk for HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) come together in correctional facilities, seroprevalence was high early in the epidemic. The share of the HIV/AIDS epidemic borne by inmates of and persons released from jails and prisons in the United States (US) in 1997 was estimated in a previous paper. While the number of inmates and releasees has risen, their HIV seroprevalence rates have fallen. We sought to determine if the share of HIV/AIDS borne by inmates and releasees in the US decreased between 1997 and 2006. We created a new model of population flow in and out of correctional facilities to estimate the number of persons released in 1997 and 2006. In 1997, approximately one in five of all HIV-infected Americans was among the 7.3 million who left a correctional facility that year. Nine years later, only one in seven (14%) of infected Americans was among the 9.1 million leaving, a 29.3% decline in the share. For black and Hispanic males, two demographic groups with heightened incarceration rates, recently released inmates comprise roughly one in five of those groups' total HIV-infected persons, a figure similar to the proportion borne by the correctional population as a whole in 1997. Decreasing HIV seroprevalence among those admitted to jails and prisons, prolonged survival and aging of the US population with HIV/AIDS beyond the crime-prone years, and success with discharge planning programs targeting HIV-infected prisoners could explain the declining concentration of the epidemic among correctional populations. Meanwhile, the number of persons with HIV/AIDS leaving correctional facilities remains virtually identical. Jails and prisons continue to be potent targets for public health interventions. The fluid nature of incarcerated populations ensures that effective interventions will be felt not only in correctional facilities but also in communities to which releasees return.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prisoners
  • Prisons
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology