AIDS Group Criticizes California Senate Leadership for Stopping Condoms-in-Prisons Bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- AB 1677 (Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood), a bill that would have allowed the state of California to grant nonprofit healthcare agencies permission to make sexual barrier protection devices (such as condoms and dental dams) available in California prisons in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, was held by the State Senate Appropriations Committee earlier today, effectively killing the bill for this legislative year.  The bill, sponsored by the Southern California HIV/AIDS Coalition (SCHAC), AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the US, which operates AIDS treatment clinics in the U.S., Africa, and Central America, was first introduced by Koretz in late February, and had been placed on the Appropriations suspense file in mid-August, where it will now remain until next year.

"We are disappointed that the Senate leadership missed this important opportunity to interrupt one of the major paths of transmission of HIV, from paroled prison inmates who unknowingly expose their spouses or significant others to HIV," said Michael Weinstein, AHF's president.  "Use of condoms is a proven risk-reduction strategy; it is the obligation of state government to ensure effective public health measures are employed wherever they can to help break the chain of infection.  Today's decision by the Senate is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that HIV infection rates are exploding among communities of color, especially among women of color who are often exposed to HIV through their relationships with paroled inmates."

Research has shown that the monetary costs of not providing condoms to the prison population are extremely high.  Although the total cost of HIV in California correctional facilities is not tracked, it is estimated that $18 million in costs are attributable to HIV with $14 million of that spent on antiretroviral medications.

"In addition to missing a crucial opportunity to protect the public's health, the death of this bill squanders an inexpensive, pragmatic way to help control skyrocketing healthcare costs in the state," added Weinstein.

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation