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Federal Cuts Force Massachusetts to Scale Back HIV Screenings in Jails


The state is plans to cut back HIV testing and education spending in jails. Over $1 million dollars have been eliminated from programs in houses of correction.

Kevin Cranston, director of the state Bureau of Infectous Disease, says that due to the tight budget, the state is making cuts they believe will have the least amount of impat.

State prisons will be spared the cuts. Cranston also says that not all HIV programs in county jails will be eliminated.  

Steve O’Neil of EPOCA, the Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, says that cuts to HIV education and screening in jails will put an at risk population at greater risk.

Denise McWilliams of the AIDS Action Committee says that she understands that the state is making very careful choices in where to cut aid, but added that they must keep a close watch on the effects of the cuts.

McWilliams added that the because of the high turnover of inmates in county jails – with a max sentencing of two and a half years – the houses of correction are a good place to educate and screen those who will return to their communities sooner than inmates in a state prison. In 2011, only 34 inmates in county jails tested positive for HIV.

Over the next five years, the state will eliminate over 4 million dollars in HIV prevention funding funding due to federal cutbacks.

Kevin Cranston says even with new state regulations encouraging routine HIV screenings in Massachusetts, the overall testing rates may still drop.

The 1.25 million dollars in cuts for the next fiscal year will begin on July 1st.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.