This info was sent to me by one of the Yahoo Groups. The article discusses HIV in Dominican prisons and was written by Antigone Barton, staff writer for the Palm Beach Post. It makes you appreciate how far we've come as it pertains to healthcare and human rights, but have compassion for those who are still struggling.
The caribbean has the second-highest prevalence of the virus in the world. The island of Hispaniola, which the D.R. shares with Haiti, has the highest prevalence of HIV in this hemishere.
Inside the gates of La Victoria Penitentiary 4,000 inmates live packed into a space built to hold 1,000. The stench of pit toilets fills dark, barely vented cells. Concrete slabs and floors serve as beds. Meals are scooped from a dirty plastic barrel. Many call this place a hell on Earth. Human Rights is a work in progress.
Efforts to control the spread of infectious diseases lag even further behind. The rate of drug-resistant tuberculosis is known to be one of the highest in the world. Twice as many people are infected with HIV in the caribbean each year than in all of North America, but doctors at La Victoria don't have any idea how many prisoners actually have the virus.
Of course, consequences of the prisons failings aren't contained within its walls. Wednesdays and Sundays are visiting days with about 2000 visitors: wives, girlfriends and hundreds of prostitutes who serve a dozen men or more during each visit. The supply of condoms at the prison ran out five months ago. Prison officials deny any inmates have the virus, but an American doctor has been providing needed services.
Dr. John May, chief medical officer at Armor Correctional Health Services in South Florida, provides medical care for inmates. His non-profit brings donated supplies and expertise to prisons in the Caribbean and Africa.
At any prison where people of high risks and low resources are concentrated, the rate of HIV can be as much as five times higher than that of general population. As the AIDS epidemic turns 25 years old, sex tourism and immigration continue to speed the spread of the virus from one country to another.
May thinks of the bigger picture when performing his services. Improving treatment of infectious diseases in developing countries, he says, not only helps otherwise abandoned people but also can stem the spread of HIV and tuberculosis in the U.S.
Why the concern? The D.R. has 66,000 of the nations 8.7 million people known to be infected and estimates as many as 95,700 actually carry the virus. At the same time, resources to treat the virus and prevent its spread are reminiscent of the early 1980's in the U.S. when most were still in denial and stigma thwarted major response to the epidemic.