PRISON HEALTH IS PUBLIC HEALTH: HIV/AIDS and the case for prison reform
A South African sentenced to prison is at high risk of contracting HIV before he even arrives at prison for the first time. Prisoners are primarily young, black men from impoverished communities already hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. Much of their behaviour prior to incarceration is high risk for contracting HIV, and is likely to continue upon their release. Conditions in South African prisons also contribute to increased HIV prevalence due to gang violence, poor nutrition, and inadequate health care. If these issues are not addressed, the consequences will be dire, not only for the prison population, but for the broader society into which prisoners are released upon completion of their sentences. The overcrowding of prisons is one of the most important factors affecting prisoner health; reducing the size of the prison population is essential to prison reform.
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