Alabama becomes last state to segregate HIV-postive inmates - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Alabama becomes last state to segregate HIV-postive inmates

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South Carolina's prisons announced Wednesday, July 10, they are ending a policy of segregating HIV-positive inmates.

This leaves Alabama as the only state in the nation to isolate inmates who are HIV-positive, depriving them of access to basic social and human contact.

"HIV is not an airborne illness. You can't even contract the virus after eating after because after that HIV virus becomes airborne, it dies within 30 to 45 seconds," explains Marilyn Swyers, Executive Director of the Unity Wellness Center.

HIV is spread by dirty needles, blood to blood contact and sexual activity.

The epidemic is over 30 years old and science is proving treatment is prevention.

"Those medications, when they reduce the viral load, they're 97 percent less likely to spread to someone else if your viral load is undetectable, so that is one reason we say segregation is not necessary," says Swyers.

A federal judge ordered Alabama to end the practice in December of 2012, following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

We contacted the Alabama Department of Corrections to see where they stood in the process and they told us, "The case is still in mediation and we are working with plaintiffs to resolve."

On a local level, Lee County is one step ahead of the game with a protocol that integrates HIV-positive inmates with the rest of the jail population, treating them like any other prisoner unless there is a reason not to.

"They are treated as any just as any inmate would be treated. If they develop any symptoms, if they fall ill, then certainly as we would any inmate, we would address those issues and provide medical treatment," explains Lee County Sheriff, Jay Jones.

The Unity Wellness Center works closely with the state prisons are made aware when an HIV-positive inmate will be released back into the community.

"We're contacted, we have all of their information for their medical records, says Swyers, "They're, linked to our organization so then we can pick up and help them continue they're treatment."

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