This report explores the experiences of incarcerated women living with HIV in New York state prisons from 2009-2013. New York has the highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated people and the second-highest number of HIV-positive incarcerated women of all prison systems in the country. In 2010, 12% of women in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision were living with HIV. This is more than double the rate for men and 42 times the rate for the general public. While HIV disproportionately affects women in New York’s prisons, the social determinants tied to risk of both HIV and criminalization – poverty, addiction, sex work, trauma, and homelessness – frequently occur in conjunction, regardless of location.
Some of the report’s key findings and recommendations are:
• Although HIV services are offered in all prisons, women living with HIV face stigma, discrimination, and lack of confidentiality, which may make them reluctant to report their status or seek treatment.
• HIV testing is offered sporadically, but should be offered at opportune moments such as annual GYN appointments.
• HIV education is available in most facilities, but information should be updated and in formats accessible for women with low literacy skills or who are not fluent in English.
Five of the six prisons surveyed were all-women’s prisons, while the sixth had only recently begun to house both women and men. The data therefore may not accurately reflect the experiences of women living in mixed prison populations.