The South Carolina Department of Corrections announced today that it is abolishing its policy of separating HIV-positive inmates, becoming the last state to do so.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, for whom this marks a quarter-century campaign to end the practice of isolation and segregation of HIV-positive prisoners, now prisoners will be able to access needed services, such as educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programs, and will not publicly have their positive status outed. Being forced to involuntarily disclose their health status also violated international human rights laws and medical ethics, the group said.
“HIV ghettos became a shameful fixture in U.S. prisons during the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in the Deep South,” said Margaret Winter, the ACLU National Prison Project’s associate director. “Today, South Carolina closes a discriminatory chapter in U.S. history, one that was driven by ignorance, fear, and bias.”
The change is part of other health initiatives also announced on behalf of the state’s nearly 22,000 inmates incarcerated in 26 different locations. It comes just over six months after an Alabama federal judge’s decision that the state’s HIV segregation policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.