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(New York) - South Carolina should stop segregating HIV-positive prisoners from the rest of the prison population, a policy that promotes stigma and discrimination, Human Rights Watch said today. The US Department of Justice, in a letter to South Carolina prison officials that came to light this week, threatened legal action unless prisoners with HIV are provided housing, prison job programs, and work release opportunities on an equal basis with other prisoners.South Carolina: End Segregation of HIV-infected Prisoners
The Justice Department letter, dated June 22, 2010, also criticized medical and mental health care for to the state's HIV-positive prisoners. It came two months after Human Rights Watch and the ACLU issued "Sentenced to Stigma," a report documenting the harmful consequences of Alabama's and South Carolina's segregation of prisoners with HIV. They are the only states that separate these prisoners from the general prison population as a matter of policy.
Prison officials in South Carolina defend their segregation policy as necessary to protect the prisoners' health, but they are wrong. There is no medical justification for the policy, which promotes stigma, perpetuates misinformation about HIV, violates medical privacy, and restricts prisoners' ability to participate in prison programs