State Ranks High In Regional Inmate HIV/AIDS Rates

Nearly one out of every 100 prisoners in Colorado-based state and federal correctional facilities are HIV positive or have AIDS.Colorado is one of the leading western states when it comes to HIV/AIDS cases among inmates, with only two other states reporting higher rates. On top of that, rates in Colorado show no sign of slowing down and have remained stagnant for the past three years.

According to a report published by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in September, Colorado had 148 HIV/AIDs cases in 2005 for state and federal inmates. California and Arizona were the only two states–out of 13 western states–to have more cases than Colorado. California reported 1,249 infected inmates and Arizona was just above Colorado with 152 cases.

The report also shows that .9 percent of the state’s total correctional population, including federal and state facilities, were dealing with either HIV or AIDS in 2005. The same numbers were 1.1 percent in 2004 and 1 percent in 2003.

There are a variety of reasons that rates are the way they are says Lovisa Stannow, the executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape, a national non-profit dealing with sexual violence in prisons.

For one things, correctional facilities rarely provide inmates with condoms Stannow says. Then there’s also the contraction of the virus thorough sexual assault and rape.

“People do contract HIV through prisoner rape, and in fact we do work with several survivor advocates who did contract HIV through prisoner rape,” explains Stannow, who notes that at least 95 percent of all prisoners in the nation will eventually be released. “People who have been sexually abused return home with infectious diseases, emotional scars, learned violent behavior…people struggle with the aftermath of these assaults for years and decades.”

Nationally, 1.7 percent, or 22,480 inmates in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, and the virus remains the leading cause of death after natural causes. Colorado, like many other states, test inmates for HIV when they are processed into the correctional system.

Also see:
Inmate Sexual Assaults Point To Lack Of Information

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at