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Florida Prisons Hold The Most HIV-Positive Inmates In U.S.

Florida’s state and federal correctional institutions hold the most prisoners in the U.S. living with HIV, and also the highest percentage with HIV, of any prison system. That’s according to a report compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice as documented by the Prison Policy Initiative, News From The States reports. At the end of 2021, the seven states with the highest rates of HIV-infected inmates are mostly in the South, led by Florida with 2.8%. Mississippi, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina were the next highest. There were 120,502 people living with HIV in Florida in 2021, according to the Florida Department of Health. Florida is one of 35 states with laws on the books criminalizing HIV exposure. The Prison Policy Initiative report notes that at least 154 people were imprisoned for HIV-related offenses between 1997 to 2020. STAT, a health website, listed Florida as one of the eight worst states in the nation when it comes to treating hepatitis C in prison.

The authors of that report wrote that hepatitis C was the cause of death for at least 130 people in Florida prisons from 2014 to 2019. STAT notes that the large number of prison deaths from hepatitis C is due in part to Florida's housing the nation s third largest prison population. In 2017, the Florida Justice Institute filed a federal class action suit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) for failing to provide medications to three inmates with hepatitis C.  The federal judge overseeing the case said the agency had a “long and sordid history of failing to treat HCV (Hepatitis C virus) – infected inmates.” In 2019, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered the department to implement a plan to test, monitor, and treat people with hepatitis C. The FDC appealed that ruling, and in 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit sided with the department, saying the state was not required to offer inmates treatment in the early stages of the disease.


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