HIV and AIDS have been around for thirty-plus years now, and yet there’s till that ‘fear’ of those who have ‘it’; there are still people who think you can get ‘it’ from living together, sharing a soda, using the same bathroom; there are still some people who think anyone with HIV or AIDS needs to be separated from the rest of ‘us’ so we don’t get ‘it’.
South Carolina was one of those places, until this week.
South Carolina subjects all its prisoners to mandatory HIV testing as soon as they enter the system and, until this week, anyone testing positive was sent to solitary confinement and then sent to serve their prison term in HIV Ghettos.
Yes, that’s what they did here in South Carolina, until this week.
And they also—shades of WWII Concentration Camps—forced all HIV+ prisoners into wearing badges so that everyone knows they live in the HIV Ghetto. I’m guessing the Pink Triangle wasn’t available; or, failing that, a Scarlet H.
And, again, until this week, if you were imprisoned in South Carolina, and if you tested positive for HIV, and then were segregated, you had fewer opportunities for rehabilitation which meant your prison term was longer than those who tested negative.
In addition, if you are an HIV+ prisoner in South Carolina, until this week you would have been confined in a maximum security prison that houses South Carolina's death row—even if you were a minimum-security prisoner serving time for some trivial offense.
Until this week, the state of South Carolina barred all prisoners with HIV, including the 40 HIV-positive women in its custody, from eating in the same dining hall with other prisoners. All prisoners with HIV were excluded from all jobs in prison food service, and all HIV+ prisoners were excluded from work release programs; this is especially harmful for those prisoners hoping to be rehabilitated and then released, as the work release program significantly improves a prisoner's chances of a successful re-entry to the community.
Until this week, HIV+ prisoners were not even allowed to sit together during church services with other prisoners.
But that ended; all of that is going to change. This week, the South Carolina Department of Corrections has announced that it is abolishing its policy of HIV segregation marking an end to the HIV Ghettos in US prisons.
Now, if only we could educate the public, and if only if won’t take another thirty years.