Sure, HIV’s prevalent in prison, says Ernesto Lamadrid, MD, of Florida’s Lowell/Marion Correctional Institute—but not as much as its frequent sidekick, hepatitis C, which afflicts inmates 10 times more than folks outside. Many prisons will test for it—but since treatment can last up to 18 months, cost up to $40K a year and not always work, they’ll often deny it if you’re due to fly the coop in two years or less. Lousy access like that might not change until folks take their cue from Pennsylvania, where prisoners threatened a class-action suit to get the treatment they needed.
Lamadrid urges inmates with C to use the time “inside” to kick habits (booze, drugs, unsafe sex) that court more liver damage and other infections, and fight back C by drinking lots of water, eating less fat, quitting smoking—and hitting that gym! On HIV meds? Stick to ’em. Controlling HIV helps slow C. You can also:
Band together with fellow prisoners to demand hep C testing (including getting your results!), liver-enzyme testing to track C if you have it and, should a doc say you need it, treatment. Write or call the HCV Prison Support Project (PO Box 41803, Eugene, OR 17404; 1.866.HEPINFO) for its free newsletter.
Get legal. Wanna bring suit for treatment denial? ACLU National Prison Project (c/o Jackie Walker, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 620, Washington, DC 20005) is in your court.
Got Web access? Stay hep to the issues at www.hcvinprison.org.