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HIV Prison Segregation Ends in Alabama

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled to end the segregation of prisoners with HIV in Alabama on the grounds that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Following the judgment, South Carolina remains the only state in US to still practice segregating HIV inmates from the general prison population.

Judge Thompson wrote, “It is evident that, while the … segregation policy has been an unnecessary tool for preventing the transmission of HIV, it has been an effective one for humiliating and isolating prisoners living with the disease.”

The lawsuit on behalf of HIV-positive inmates in Alabama was filed by American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU argued that the practice was discriminatory and prevented HIV-positive inmates from taking part in retraining and rehabilitation programs, which are crucial for adjusting to life after prison.

People who are in favor of ending such segregation say that medical facts and research clearly shows that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by behavior and not by environment. Hence, segregation of people suffering from HIV/AIDS does nothing more to prevent its spread than ostracizing them further.

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Two of Alabama’s 29 prisons had dormitories specifically meant for prisoners with HIV. At present, inmates suffering from HIV, live, eat and exercise apart from other prison inmates, and male inmates in the HIV dormitories have to were white armbands to indicate to others that they are suffering from HIV.

Court documents show a letter by a former prisoner with HIV who was also a plaintiff in the case. Dana Harley, the plaintiff wrote that being isolated like contagious animals felt like “punishment three times over.”

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