Thanks to several years of work by the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS Alabama and several state legislators, HIV-positive prisoners in Alabama will now get what other prisoners get: access to visitation, educational programs, substance abuse treatment, and religious services. Though it may seem hard to believe in the 21st Century, HIV-positive individuals incarcerated in Alabama prisons have been kept segregated to the point that they have been denied help taken for granted by other prisoners.
Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that segregates HIV-positive prisoners from the general prison population. At the women’s prison in Wetumpka, HIV-positive prisoners have been maintained in total isolation behind barbed wire. Excluding prisoners fom community-based corrections programs, in addition to being a violaton of their rights, has also cost the state of Alabama as much as $7,000 per prisoner.
The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to provide HIV-positive prisoners access to visitation, education, substance abuse treatment and other rehabilitation services, and religious services, but not to provide them with any access to work release programs. The ACLU and its allies will continue to work to try to end this last vestige of discrimination against those who are HIV-positive.