HIV Risk Among Offenders: Assessing the Disconnect Between HIV Eduction and Offender Knowledge, Perceptions, and Behaviors

Steven Belenko, Columbia University
Susan M. Crimmins, California State University/N.D.R.I.
Jeffrey Lin, Columbia University
Lisa O'Connor, Columbia University

The incidence of new HIV/AIDS cases has disproportionately increased among urban poor and people of color, with drug-related risk behaviors the most significant transmission vector. These same groups are also at high risk for arrest and incarceration. HIV education and risk reduction strategies based in the criminal justice system have the potential to reduce the incidence of HIV infections and transmission of HIV to uninfected individuals. Yet offender access to comprehensive, effective, culturally- and gender-specific HIV education/prevention programs is limited. Moreover, there are limited data about offenders' HIV-related service needs, the impact of HIV education, barriers to HIV service delivery, and model program structures. In this paper, data from interviews with 300 New York City prison inmates, parolees, and probationers (210 male, 90 female) are analyzed to assess the prevalence of HIV sex- and drug-risk behaviors, exposure to HIV services, views about the value of these services, and barriers to accessing care. These findings are interpreted in the context of data from interviews with 70 staff of criminal justice, HIV prevention, and drug treatment agencies, and a review of HIV service delivery in the criminal justice system, to assess the disconnect between offender experiences/needs and actual service delivery.

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Updated 05/20/2006