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House Approves AIDS Prevention Bill

On March 17, the House approved, by voice vote, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 1429). Sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), H.R. 1429 would require the Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive policy to provide pre- and post-test HIV counseling, prevention, and treatment for inmates in federal prisons, including pregnant women.

Rep. Waters said, “More than a quarter century has passed since AIDS was first discovered, yet the AIDS virus continues to infect and kill thousands of Americans every year. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, released new estimates of HIV infection, which prove that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is even worse than we thought. The new estimates indicate that approximately 56,300 new infections occurred in the United States in 2006. This figure is approximately 40 percent higher than CDC’s previous estimates of 40,000 new infections every year…We need to take the threat of HIV/AIDS seriously, and we need to confront it in every institution in our society. That includes our nation’s prison system.”

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, “H.R. 1429 requires routine HIV testing for all federal prison inmates upon entry and prior to release. For all existing inmates, testing is required within six months of enactment. This reasonable requirement will enable prison officials to reduce HIV/AIDS among inmates and provide counseling, prevention, and health care services for inmates who are infected with the disease…I believe in tough punishment for criminal offenders because the public deserves to be protected. But we have a duty to treat prisoners humanely and to rehabilitate them. To me, preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS among prisoners is an essential part of humane treatment and rehabilitation.”

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