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November 2, 2009

Michigan Officials Push to Remove Food Service Ban for Positive Prisoners

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is working to revamp a contested policy that bars HIV-positive prisoners from working in prison food service jobs, The Michigan Messenger reports. A new policy could lift the ban by early December.

According to the article, the food service policy spurred controversy earlier this year when MDOC assistant director Russ Marlan told the Messenger that the prohibition prevented servers from transmitting HIV to other prisoners. His comments suggested that food servers could transmit HIV by bleeding in the kitchen or by sneezing on food.

Marlan later retracted those comments, calling them “ridiculously wrong” after inciting a policy review by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. He said the actual reason for the policy is to protect HIV-positive prisoners from stigma-related violence. To help solve this problem, he said, HIV education and annual testing in MDOC facilities will lessen HIV misinformation and create a safer environment for HIV-positive food servers.

Local advocacy group Michigan POZ Action Coalition—which is not affiliated with POZ magazine—has applauded the policy change.

“I think it shows we are in a place where a department is seeing HIV as a health issue and not so much a hysteria disease response,” said organization director Mark Peterson.

Search: Michigan, food service, Department of Corrections, MDOC, Russ Marlan, Michigan POZ Action Coalition

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