In Alabama and South Carolina, it is normal to isolate prisoners who are HIV positive, with the goal to stop the spread of AIDs, thus keeping medical costs low. In an article by the New York Times, author Robbie Brown explains why that isolation may be coming to an end.
Albert Knox was a prisoner in an Alabama prison who was tested positive for HIV after being convicted of cocaine possession. Within his first week, he was harassed as guards yelled out, "dead man walking," as Knox passed by. Due to his diagnosis, Knox was forbidden to eat in the cafeteria, work around food or visit any of his friends within his substance-abuse program.
This is not an odd occurrence for Alabama prisons, as they are one of two states that allow HIV-positive inmates to be isolated from others - South Carolina is the other state. According to New York Times, "The goal is to stop the spread of the virus, which causes AIDS, and to reduce medical costs. The Alabama Corrections Department's concern is that H.I.V. will spread through consensual sex, through rape or through blood when inmates give one another tattoos."
Isolation isn't the only way HIV-positive inmates are victimized. According an article written by Elton John in the Washington Post, "In Alabama, prisoners with HIV are made to wear a white armband to distinguish themselves from other inmates, a modern-day scarlet letter. In South Carolina, the 400 or so HIV-positive prisoners, even those convicted of minor offenses, are housed in maximum-security facilities alongside those on death row."
Both Alabama and South Carolina partake in this behavior, claiming it to be a health concern for others - but there is a possibility that the states are excluding them on purpose, to further their embarrassment publicly. "When I established the Elton John AIDS Foundation 20 years ago, one objective was to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS," Elton John said. "These policies are a reminder that our work is far from over."
A trial held in Sept. 17 will have a ruling on Alabama's policies made before Thanksgiving.