December #66 : The Viral Lowdown: Prison Death Prompts Probe

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Table of Contents

The Viral Lowdown: Can You Believe What She Says?

The Viral Lowdown: Say What

The Viral Lowdown: Word Is Out For New HIVers

The Viral Lowdown: Dishing Out the Denial

The Viral Lowdown: Pharma Flubs Phase IV

The Viral Lowdown: Lack of Leadership Leaves Latinos In Lethal Lurch

The Viral Lowdown: Mystery: Partially Positive

The Viral Lowdown: Prison Death Prompts Probe

The Viral Lowdown: African AIDS Under a TAC

The Viral Lowdown: All Dolled Up: Rx Abuse High Among Gay HIVers


The Viral Lowdown: If Not Now, When? If Not Us, Who?

The Viral Lowdown: News Flash: The Sky Isn't Falling!

The Viral Lowdown: HIVers in Hock to Homophobia

Tales of the (Safer Sex) City

Clean, Sober...and Medicated?

The Secret Plot to Destroy African Americans


The Art Of Living

Summit, Some More

Channel Surfing

Shout Out

Lights! Camera! Handcuffs?

Quick Picks

Life Is Sweet

Packing Meat, Just Barely

A Cell of One’s Own


Doing AIDS Justice

Petal Pusher

Carry On, MP

Milk Got You?

Comfort Zone

Big Science Kicker

Herb Of The Month

Protease Progeny

It Takes Guts

Between A Recovery And A Hard Place

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

December 2000

The Viral Lowdown: Prison Death Prompts Probe

Treatment for TB she never had killed HIVer

PWA Rosemary Willeby's three-year stint at California Correctional Women's Facility (CCWF) turned into a death sentence, and now friends say that a prison doctor should be behind bars -- for manslaughter.

Last year, the 47-year-old Willeby's health was stable. Combo therapy had made her viral load undetectable, but she had liver-damaging hepatitis C. Despite this, CCWF's Augustine Mekkam, MD, claiming that Willoughby had "tuberculosis symptoms," switched her to four anti-TB meds, including the liver-toxic isoniazid. When a belated TB test came up negative, all drugs were stopped. But the damage was done. Friends watched helplessly as Willeby's liver deteriorated. Within six months she was dead, her bloated belly the size of a basketball.

While medical care for caged PWAs is routinely substandard, an outbreak of the airborne TB wreaks havoc with order and budget, so anti-TB meds are a top priority. Judy Greenspan of the HIV in Prison Project reports that six other CCWF HIVers died last year, and she was contacted by others who say they were not only misprescribed TB meds but threatened by Mekkham with retaliation if they complained.

CCWF's Rhonda Frost told POZ the women's claims were "ridiculous" and denied charges against Mekkam. At press time, the California legislature had convened a hearing at CCWF to hear prisoner testimony about medical care. After the first day, state Sen. Cathie Wright said, "What I heard today curdled my stomach."

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