HIV/AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, (1) and researchers hypothesize that the number of people who will develop AIDS during the 21st century will continue to grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number infected with HIV in the United States exceeds 1 million. (2) And because the impact of HIV disease is disproportionate in economically disadvantaged populations, it is not surprising that the estimated prevalence of HIV infection is considered to be five times higher for incarcerated male populations. (3)
Impact of HIV/AIDS
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a collection of symptoms or opportunistic infections occurring from a damaged immune system. It is caused by a retrovirus commonly known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which attacks the immune system, leaving individuals at risk for infections, depression, declining health and untimely death. Immune-compromised people are unable to fight off organisms generally considered normal in the human body.
The social impacts of HIV are excruciating for individuals, families and communities. Those infected face decreased quality of life and loss of jobs, housing and medical insurance. Stigmatization and discrimination aimed at people living with HIV/AIDS is also well documented. Families face poverty, increased stress and dysfunction, and higher medical and legal costs. Communities face the loss of social and economic capital and increased hospital and emergency room expenditures. The astronomical costs of HIV medications pose enormous ethical burdens on communities and medical providers that turn away HIV-positive patients due to limited funding. It is not surprising that a direct correlation has been …