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29 How. J. Crim. Just. 1 (1990)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj29 and id is 1 raw text is: 



The Howard Journal Vol 29 No 1. Feb 1990
ISSN 0265-5527


               HIV/AIDS in Prisons


                        PHILIP A. THOMAS
       Senior Lecturer in Law, Cardiff Law School, University of Wales

Abstract: Defining a problem is in itself Problematic. Appropriate responses to the perceived
problem involve the recognition of its nature and scope. 'Official' Home Office data and
ministerial statements indicate that drug abuse and unprotected anal intercourse are not
considered to be major problems in the prisons of England and Wales. 'Unofficial' information
regarding these high risk activities leads to a contrary conclusion. Lack of adequate 'official'
information suppresses the required recognition of and response to HIV/AIDS and thereby places
prisoners at greater risk of infection.

HIV   and  AIDS  make  clear, as few medical  problems  can, the complex
interrelationship between  political, social, cultural, economic and bio-
logical forces. They are not simply a physical condition and opportunistic
illnesses concerning the individual and the doctor  which, in turn, place
certain demands  upon  the state. They open a Pandora's box  of prejudice,
homophobia,   racism and  xenophobia.  We  are brought up starkly against
our own  mortality. Our  understanding  of sexuality, fidelity and morality
is challenged. Illnesses associated with  ageing have  been  joined by  a
problem  which  to date is found predominantly   amongst  the young  and
vibrant. Our  increasingly science-orientated society faces a virus which
defies modern   medicine.  The  foundations  of  many   beliefs are being
shaken.
   Prevailing attitudes shape our responses to HIV/AIDS   as the struggle
continues  to  halt the  transference  of the  virus. For  example,   the
homophobia   which  lies deep within Western society enjoys a new licence
for expression thereby  inhibiting control processes. Gays, blacks, pros-
titutes and drug abusers have  been labelled incorrectly as group-sources
of infection. Many people still fail to distinguish between unsafe practices
and identifiable groups which presently display a relatively high incidence
of infection or  illness. Others have  argued  (Shilts 1988; Carter  and
Watney   1989) that it will not be recognised as a serious 'problem' whilst it
is contained within minority groups and in particular the gay community.
By analogy,  the prison population produces similar disinterest for so long
as the problem  is perceived to be restricted to the prison.
  This  paper is about the recognition of 'problems' and in particular the
problem  of HIV/AIDS within prisons in England and Wales. Before a
problem  can be treated it must be recognised and evaluated. For example,
a surgeon should  not take out an appendix  simply because it is there but
because, through  clinical diagnosis, it has been identified as problematic.
Without   adequate  evidence  problems   are, or  may   be, classified as


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