Health issues ignored by Florida Dept. of Corrections, prisoner charges
February 2000

Dear editors;

I read your article in the Gainesville Iguana [January 2000], where prisoners speak on conditions inside. I am an inmate here at Union Correctional Institute (UCI). You mentioned a couple of vital issues which are of great concern to us and of which the general public should be made aware of.

I myself am a convicted felon, and I am paying for my crimes in which I committed. And I am not asking for society to feel sympathy. But there are very serious and most deadly illnesses in which everyone stereotypes and everyone seems to put on the back burner because of ignorance and not really want to deal with, it's HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Well it's here and everyone has to deal with it. The pandemic of these illnesses is at great demand to be dealt with worldwide. Prison population has tripled in the past ten years. Overcrowding and understaffing is legion in the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) and has created conditions of great risk for us inmates. As it is generally accepted that it is not who you are but what you do that puts you at risk for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases or hepatitis, the high rates of HIV infection in the FDOC and across the nation are not surprising.

But the question that is raising eyebrows is. What is FDOC doing as far as educating the convicts that are going to one day ... get released back into society? Here at this facility there is no medication class as to inform and educate the patients that do take medication, what medications they are taking what side effects they cause. Neither is there a class or program at this facility to educate the inmates [on] prevention strategies and inform and educate them that it is not okay once infected to go out and have unprotected sex, and let them know that it is a felony to not inform your partner of your status when or before having sex. ...There is continuously homosexual activities in progress daily in the FDOC.

I am myself a prisoner living with HIV. I am very well informed and educated. And I do my best to my ability and knowledge to prevent reinfection and stay healthy. But I am here to tell you that there are those that don't know what they are taking as far as the medication. A lot of them come to me and ask me for information. I share with them as much as I can. I am just an inmate living with HIV not a doctor. That is the FDOC responsibility to help and educate these guys.

I have requested to the medical department about support groups and assistance and they then referred me to mental health. I requested to them and have discussed with my psychiatric specialist and they aren't qualified and have had limited training. Where do we turn to? Who do we go for help? Just recently in the past days I won't disclose the name but there was an inmate released that is infected with hepatitis C and knows he infected his wife and has not told her. Now released from DOC without being educated. How many others will he infect and transmit this deadly virus to?

I write this in order for our taxpayers to know and so that society may know what is happening and why FDOC isn't educating us that are infected. I am not afraid to voice what is happening. I myself have friends and family that work for the FDOC and if FDOC or the administration at UCI come to me with retaliatory conduct so be it. My family and now the community is aware and I have contacted various organizations throughout the country like ACLU, AMFAR, PWAC and Prisoners Coalition just to name a few among the so many that I am affiliated with.

When will this facility start educating the so many infected with these illnesses? Will it ever start? I guess we will soon find out. I myself ask if there are any volunteers which may want to help from the many organizations or agencies. Please help us. have my consent to print this letter and message to our community. Thank you.


A person living with HIV

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