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NC Department of Health and Human Services

Division of Public Health partners with the Department of Correction
to test prison inmates for HIV

Release Date: December 15, 2008
Contact: Carol Schriber, 919-733-9190

RALEIGH, N.C. – Under a new HIV testing program for prison inmates in North Carolina, 82 percent of incoming prisoners were tested for HIV in November. In collaboration with the N.C. Division of Public Health, the N.C. Department of Correction (DOC) began the expanded HIV testing program on Nov. 1. Of the 2,163 individuals entering the state’s prisons last month, 1,784 were tested for HIV.

Previously, HIV testing was offered based on a risk assessment that was part of a comprehensive medical evaluation done upon an inmate’s entry into the prison system, or when the inmate requested such testing. 

The new testing procedure is known as routine “opt-out.”  In the opt-out program, HIV testing is done if the inmate does not sign a refusal waiver after receiving specific counseling about HIV when he/she is admitted to prison.  Inmates continue to be able to make self-requests for testing at any time during their terms of incarceration.

Opt-out testing is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all persons ages 13 - 64 as part of routine medical care.  North Carolina enacted routine HIV testing for the general population in October 2007 when HIV control measures were revised. 

Since August 2008, personnel from the Division of Public Health have been working with Department of Correction officials and staff to update policies and procedures and establish training for DOC healthcare personnel on opt-out testing.

“This collaborative effort has been successful and we’re strongly encouraged by the number of inmates who are being tested for HIV disease,” said Dr. Leah Devlin, State Health Director. “This is an important step, and we commend the Department of Correction for taking action and strengthening our public’s health.”

According to Dr. Paula Smith, Chief of Health Services for the DOC, “we are pleased to be working cooperatively and collaboratively with our state public health colleagues to help reduce this growing epidemic in our state.  This joint effort represents a great opportunity to improve the health of our inmates and our communities.”

Data provided by the U. S. Department of Justice shows that in 2006 North Carolina ranked 7th among all states in the number of inmates with an HIV infection.

“It was a moral imperative, not just for prisoners but for citizens out there, too,” said Dr. Peter Leone, Medical Director of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Division of Public Health.



Updated: December 16, 2008