New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner
Office of Public Information
For immediate release:
Tuesday, August 18, 1998
Prison HIV rate, deaths plummet as Pataki increases AIDS spending
The number of New York state prison inmates dying annually from HIV-related diseases has plummeted by 77 percent - from 258 in 1995 down to 60 last year - the lowest level in 14 years, according to Commissioner Glenn S. Goord of the Department of Correctional Services.
Governor George E. Pataki said, "Felons are sentenced to prison as punishment, not for punishment. Once they are incarcerated, we are obligated to provide them with medical care that is the equivalent of that found in the community. Clearly, the people of New York state are meeting their obligation to provide acceptable medical care to prison inmates."
Since Governor Pataki took office in 1995:
- Random blind testing of incoming male inmates in 1996-97 showed a 25 percent drop in HIV positivity from 1992-93 levels, decreasing from 12 percent to 9 percent. Females dropped from 20 percent to 18 percent. More inmates were tested in 1996-97 than ever before, making the survey more sensitive than those conducted previously.
- Based upon these samples, it is believed that approximately 7,500 of today's 70,119 state prison inmates are HIV positive. Approximately 2,800 are in need of and receiving medical care for HIV-related diseases.
- The AIDS care budget has risen by 66 percent from the $38 million in fiscal 1994-95 to the $63 million budgeted in the current 1998-99 fiscal year. Overall, the inmate health care budget has increased from $128 million to $157 million over the same period.
- $41 million of the $200 million in inmate AIDS spending since 1995-96 has come from the Family Benefit Fund.
- The sharp decrease in AIDS deaths has led to a similar drop in the number of terminally ill inmates qualifying for medical parole. In 1994, 54 such releases were approved, compared to 20 in 1997 and eight in the first six months of 1998.
- DOCS will spend more money than ever this year for voluntary inmate HIV testing, a process that gets inmates into treatment earlier, prolongs their lives and reduces treatment costs for taxpayers. DOCS estimates that 25,000 HIV tests will be performed this year.
Commissioner Goord said, "Better treatment, enhanced education and earlier detection are the main reasons that fewer inmates are dying of AIDS in the prison system. That being said, the potential for staff to contract this deadly virus from an inmate remains a leading health concern for our employees."
Inmate associates indirectly help offset the cost of AIDS care. When inmates make collect calls to family or friends and the latter pay their telephone bill, the long-distance carrier pays a commission on those calls into the Family Benefit Fund. Fifty-four percent of that fund goes to AIDS programs, with the balance underwriting such programs as the buses transporting families to visit inmates, basic cable television service for inmates in some prisons and court-mandated postage stamps so inmates may contact the courts and other officials. The fund is budgeted at $25 million in receipts in fiscal 1998-99.
Sixty inmates died of AIDS in 1997. The last year that fewer than 60 inmates died of AIDS was in 1984, which saw 57 such deaths. Over the same 1984-97 period, the average inmate population grew from 32,630 to 69,671 inmates, an increase of 113.5 percent.
The first AIDS-related deaths occurred in DOCS in 1981. There were two AIDS deaths among 41 inmate fatalities that year. By the early 1990's, two-thirds of all inmate deaths were AIDS-related. Last year, 60 of the 221 inmate deaths were AIDS-related, accounting for only 27 percent. The majority of the other deaths were caused by cancers, heart diseases and other natural causes.
As medical researchers around the world have come to realize the various steps the virus goes through to multiply, they have designed new medications that target those specific steps to prolong life. These are known by various group names identifying which step they target. The best-known new group interferes with an enzyme essential to the virus, protease. Thus, this group is called "protease inhibitors."
Treatment of HIV infection involves several such medications - called "cocktails" - targeting several growth steps of the virus at the same time, to increase effectiveness and to delay development of viruses that are resistant to the medications. In addition, treatment involves medications to prevent some of the worst infections that people with damaged immune systems sustain. Treatment of HIV continues to evolve rapidly as new medications are designed, tested and approved and as research studies indicate more effective ways to combine the medications.
DOCS carefully follows the evolution of HIV treatment. The Department has a task group that includes physicians as well as HIV treatment specialists who treat inmates in state prisons. The task group has developed written guidelines to help keep care up-to-date and consistent throughout the 69 prisons in the state prison system. These guidelines are revised at least twice each year.
DOCS has also teamed with Albany Medical Center to produce a satellite-broadcast teleconference series on treatment of HIV in incarcerated patients. These programs are offered to other correctional systems - the most recent program being down-linked to 26 states and the federal prison system. DOCS has been involved with HIV education nationally because it is a recognized leader in HIV care, and because it is estimated that more than one-third of the HIV-infected prisoners in the country are in DOCS.
Results of random HIV testing of incoming inmates
|Year tested||Inmates tested||HIV+ males||HIV+ females|
Total inmate deaths, AIDS deaths and rates, 1981-98
* 1998 numbers are for the first six months, rate is annualized (doubled).
Where the money comes from for inmate AIDS programs ...
|Fund||FY 1994-95||FY 1995-96||FY 1996-97||FY 1997-98||FY 1998-99|
... and where the money goes ...
|Category||FY 1994-95||FY 1995-96||FY 1996-97||FY 1997-98||FY 1998-99|
|Inmate AIDS Drugs||$8,967,300||$8,967,300||$13,866,400||$17,186,400||$29,257,300|
|St. Claire's Hospital||$8,598,300||$8,071,500||$8,071,500||$8,071,500||0|
|Prison AIDS units||$1,418,200||$1,446,400||$1,459,600||$1,506,300||$1,551,489|
1 While many patients at the Walsh, Coxsackie, Wende and Bedford Hills Regional Medical Units will include AIDS patients, these are not exclusively AIDS units.