Monday, June 1 marked the third anniversary of the DC Department of Corrections’ (DOC) Automatic HIV Testing and Counseling Program. Under the leadership of Devon Brown, DOC Director, the department successfully launched this initiative on June 1, 2006. Through its innovative design, the program has already conducted HIV screening at intake for more than 27,000 inmates arriving at the Central Detention Facility (DC Jail). This outcome represents one of the largest organized testing efforts not only in the District but in the country as a whole.
The DOC Automatic HIV Testing and Counseling Program is a component of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s HIV/AIDS prevention initiative which continues to be a priority in the city’s efforts to proactively address issues associated with HIV/AIDS in our community.
“We are proud to lead the country’s largest organized, correctional HIV testing effort,” said Devon Brown, DOC Director. “The success of this program has brought the District to the forefront in the detection and prevention of HIV/AIDS and as a national leader in correctional health care.”
The DOC Automatic HIV Testing and Counseling Program, provides each detainee entering the facility a two-tiered medical evaluation, which includes automatic screening for the HIV virus, using Department of Health approved testing procedures. As a first step, this assessment allows the medical staff to determine the prevalence of HIV and to provide appropriate medical, counseling, and case management services based on testing results. Blood samples are also drawn to confirm the presence of HIV through outside laboratory testing. Inmates are again tested before they are released to the community.
The treatment process involves holistically treating the inmate and ensuring that families are effectively integrated into the treatment process upon the offender’s release. This discharge planning and community case management component ensures that affected individuals maintain their focus on proper healthcare and medication maintenance. Discharged HIV positive convicts work with staff from the DOC facility’s healthcare provider to obtain a 30 day supply of bridge medication at the time of release, schedule post release appointments at various medical centers in the community, and incorporate family members/partners/friends into the treatment process.
The DOC Automatic HIV Testing initiative has received widespread acclaim and served as a catalyst for the introduction of legislation to create similar programs by federal, state, and local governments across the country. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established national guidelines for implementing HIV testing in correctional settings incorporating each element of the DOC model. They have also praised the District of Columbia for the pioneering example it has set in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Of particular significance is the statement made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who emphasized that “early testing and treatment of those at risk could eventually eradicate, not just control, the disease in geographic areas similar to the District of Columbia.”
The DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a local advocacy group, has for two consecutive years given the Department of Corrections a superior rating for responding to the District’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. In addition, DOC has been invited to deliver presentations at numerous conferences and forums addressing the HIV/AIDS issue.
Most recently, Director Brown was invited to be the keynote speaker at the spring meeting of grantees associated with the “Enhancing Linkages to HIV Primary Care in Jail Settings Initiative”. This initiative provides funding to demonstration projects tasked with designing, implementing and evaluating innovative methods for linking persons living with HIV/AIDS in jail settings (or recently released) to primary medical care and ancillary services.
The success of the DOC’s innovative HIV program has also been highlighted at recent forums sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the National Association of Social Workers, the 2007 National HIV Prevention Conference, and the American Correctional Association (ACA). The program model has been presented at the Operational Excellence in Correctional Healthcare Conference, the Forum for Collaborative Research, and the CDC Corrections and Public Health Consultation. Future presentations will be made at the American Bar Association’s Annual Convention and the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference.