Louisiana Legislator Presses got HIV Tests in Prisons
Posted by pozlife on September 24, 2006
At a meeting of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice in Baton Rouge on Thursday, Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) said he plans to introduce a bill requiring HIV and hepatitis testing for all Louisiana prisoners. The measure, which would affect 38,000 state inmates in custody and 15,000 who pass through the system each year, is identical to HB1166, which Badon filed in this year’s session but did not push. He asked the committee to study the issue so that he can file a bill for the legislative session that starts April 30.
A Legislative Fiscal Office analysis of Badon’s previous bill showed the proposed law would cost the state about $14 million for testing and treatment in the first year and $17 million the second year. The costs would then level off to around $11.2 million a year, said analyst Kristy Freeman.
The measure would contain language requiring prison officials to segregate HIV-positive inmates, and it would give staff the right to use “reasonable force in cases where an individual refuses to submit to [the] testing required.” “Public-health issues far outweigh” individual prisoners’ privacy issues, Badon noted.
Badon said he plans to work with Richard Stalder, Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary, and other officials to lower testing and treatment costs. Stalder told the committee he could test all inmates if enough money was approved by the legislature.
Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans health department, told the panel the state should aim to reduce new HIV cases among inmates by 50% in five years. “The only way we can get our arms around AIDS cases is to reduce the number of new cases,” he said.
Stalder added that various state agencies are trying to procure federal dollars to finance HIV and hepatitis prevention programs in prisons. “Education is the key,” he said.
[This summary provided by the CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention | Times-Picayune (New Orleans) | September 15, 2006 | Ed Anderson]