There has been a lot of talk around what is taking place in the prisons in Jamaica after a study revealed that 6.9 percent of the inmates who were incarcerated for more than 6 months were HIV positive.
Director of medical services at the Department of Correctional Services, Dr. Donna-Michelle Royer-Powe wants people to understand that they cannot jump to conclusion and assume that the HIV positive inmates contracted the virus in prison. She says that there are other explanations why some prisoners could test negative for HIV when they are admitted into prison and then test positive later on during their incarceration.
“HIV has what we call a window period. If you are tested within that window period, your test could be negative; that is to say, even if some of these people were tested before on admission and their test was negative – I’m not saying that they have or they haven’t – but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they contracted HIV in the correctional facility, because if they contracted HIV, let’s say a month before their admission, the test done on admissions would be negative because of the window period. So we cannot say that they all contracted HIV in the prisons. Some have said so but we cannot assume,” said Royer-Powe.
Dr. Royer-Powe’s explanation does not seem plausible considering the fact that the inmates 6.9 percent HIV positive rate is more than 3 times that of the general public. If these inmates were infected before being incarcerated then the infection rate would be more in line with the general public’s rate of 1.9 percent. If what the doctor says was a correct explanation that would mean that Jamaica is incarcerating people with HIV at a much higher rate than those who are not infected with the virus.
The main thing to take away from the study is something that everyone already knew, it is very important to know your status and equally important to know your partner’s status. Women also need to stop assuming that because a man was in prison for a long time he has not been having sex and therefore he must be STD free.