From the August 2017 Desktop News | The South has the highest HIV rates in the country and convicted offenders are at a higher risk of contracting HIV than most other groups.
Criminology and criminal justice professor Dr. Bronwen Lichtenstein received a $45,000 award from the Elton John AIDS foundation to help combat the issue by providing information, support, onsite testing, and treatment options at the Tuscaloosa Parole and Probation Office.
“We are trying to get people tested, because once you have them tested and into treatment and care, it prevents people from dying, and most of these people can live a normal life,” Lichtenstein said. “This best thing about this is, once an infected person is receiving treatment, they can’t infect anyone else. The infection stops there.”
Lichtenstein said 588 people have been tested at the probation and parole office since the beginning of the program in fall 2016, and some have tested positive for the disease.
“This population has been completely under the radar,” Lichtenstein said. “They aren’t institutionalized, so no one can actually make them get tested. It also has to be completely voluntary. About 55 percent of people do not agree to get tested, and there has been other research saying people who are less likely to volunteer are those who are most at risk.”
Lichtenstein has reapplied for the grant in hopes to continue the program as well as start testing for the hepatitis C virus. She also hopes to see the program implemented at every parole and probation office in the state, and that her current program can serve as a blueprint for programs in other cities.
This month, Lichtenstein will be taking a sabbatical to do research in Australia as a distinguished visiting fellow at Monash University. She plans to research the differences in uptake of ARV, HIV medication, between Australia and the United States.