(Washington, DC) The District of Columbia Department of Corrections Director, Devon Brown, announces that the Department of Corrections (DOC) has reached a major milestone in its participation in the District of Columbia’s campaign to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. This month marks the successful screening of more than 19,000 inmates through the jail’s automatic HIV testing program that occurs during routine medical intake procedures when detainees arrive at the Central Detention Facility (DC Jail).
The inmates who have been tested by DOC represent approximately 33 percent of all District residents screened for HIV/AIDS to date under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s initiative, “Come Together DC, Get Screened for HIV.” The Department of Corrections assumed a lead role in addressing this public health crisis in June 2006, when it partnered with the Department of Health’s HIV and AIDS Administration in the District-wide initiative to increase HIV testing among the adult population and appropriately treat those infected with the virus. Testing is conducted on the jail population at intake and upon release, by swabbing the gums using Ora-Quick Rapid Testing kits. Blood samples are also drawn to confirm the presence of HIV through outside laboratory testing.
“The department’s measures to specifically address the HIV pandemic are reflective of our overall efforts to improve the health of those entering and leaving our gates,” Director Brown said. “Our automatic HIV/AIDS initiative has received widespread acclaim and has served as a catalyst for the introduction of legislation to create similar programs by state and local governments across the country, as well as the federal penal system. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has applauded the department’s pioneering example among corrections systems in controlling the spread of the disease.”
The DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, an advocacy group, gave DOC an “A” on its third report card last month for responding to the city’s HIV-AIDS epidemic. The Department of Corrections has consistently received the highest grades in the City over the last two years by the Appleseed Center for its efforts in combating this illness. The DOC’s most recent audits show a 95 percent success rate in the number of offenders who receive prescribed medications at the time of release. Identifying and linking HIVpositive inmates while they are incarcerated to medical care in the community upon release is a major component of the District’s Community-Oriented Correctional Health Care model being implemented under a three-year contract with UNITY Health Care, Inc.
The DOC’s innovative HIV program was highlighted at recent conference presentations of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (which has accredited the DC Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility), the National Association of Social Workers, and the 2007 National HIV Prevention Conference. The American Correctional Association (ACA) has invited the DOC to present its HIV testing program at the ACA 2008 annual conference this summer. The DOC plans to apply for a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to fund an expansion of its HIV program.