Only 53% of inmates with HIV receive treatment 2 years after release

More than half of HIV-infected individuals released from prison do not maintain a care routine due to adequate access to healthcare, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine.

Here are six things to know:

1. Researchers examined comprehensive custody and pharmacy data from the Connecticut Department of Corrections and the Connecticut Department of Public Health for 1,094 incarcerated adults diagnosed with HIV before their release between 2007-11. Pharmacy data came from the health department's Enhanced HIV-Aids Reporting System and CAREWare service utilization databases.

2. Researchers found only 67.2 percent of inmates still received care for their HIV one year after being released from prison. This figure dropped to 53.1 percent at the two-year mark and fell to just 42.5 percent after three years.

3. People who maintained an HIV care routine were more likely to have health insurance and access to intensive case management to help connect them to support groups and housing, among other services. Researchers found people with health insurance were about twice as likely to reach viral suppression than individuals without coverage.

4. Researchers also analyzed re-incarceration rates among study participants and found 48 percent retained HIV care compared to 34 percent of those who were not reincarcerated. However, people released from prison had more control of their HIV symptoms than those still in jail.

4. David Wohl, MD, co-director of HIV services at the North Carolina Department of Corrections in Raleigh and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, notes it is difficult to apply the study's findings to other states, as each has specific Medicaid coverage policies for inmates.

"This is a best-case scenario," Dr. Wohl told NPR. "The services described in this paper don't exist in North Carolina."

6. Frederick Altice, MD, co-author of the study and director of the HIV and Prison Program at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University, told NPR the healthcare system fails inmates with HIV.

"[HIV] is a chronic disease," Dr. Altice told NPR. "People don't need services six weeks after release. They need them immediately."

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