Research for Sex Work 11 is online. It's the only journal of its kind, with contributions from sex workers, health workers and NGO staff. Articles from India, Mali, Spain, the UK and the US, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Mathilde Bouvard, discuss pleasure and sex work, the failures of raids to help trafficked persons, violence against sex workers and more.
Research for Sex Work 11 is online. It’s the only journal like it, with contributions from sex workers, health workers and NGO staff. Articles from India, Mali, Spain, the UK and the US, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Mathilde Bouvard, discuss pleasure and sex work, the failures of raids to help trafficked persons, violence against sex workers and more.
Thousands of prisoners in Louisiana’s county jails are routinely denied access to HIV testing and treatment, with five of the state’s 104 jails offering regular tests to inmates upon entry, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
The same people who are at the highest risk of HIV—people of color, sex workers, and low-income communities, for instance—face disproportionate incarceration rates in Louisiana, meaning that low-income people of color, and especially Black people, are bearing the lion’s share of the burden of inadequate HIV care in county jails, called “parish” jails in Louisiana.
Louisiana has the nation’s second highest rate of new HIV infections, and the country’s third highest rate of adults and adolescents living with AIDS, according to the report. The state has the highest incarceration rate in the nation, locking up an estimated 847 people per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 478 prisoners per 100,000 people. On any given day, there are roughly 30,000 people in Louisiana’s parish jails, contributing to an incarceration rate that is 150 percent of the national average.
Many of those whose treatment has been interrupted while in jail were arrested for minor, non-violent crimes, per HRW.
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Both of these epidemics disproportionately harm Black people, who account for 70 percent of new HIV infections in Louisiana (compared to 24 percent for white people), and 66 percent of the state’s prisoners—even though Black people account for 32 percent of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents.
“This is not a coincidence,” Megan McLemore, a senior researcher at HRW and author of the report, told Rewire. “The history of the state of Louisiana has been, to say the least, disturbing in relation to African Americans.”
HRW interviewed more than 100 people for the report, from formerly incarcerated people to medical staff in parish jails to HIV service providers. What they found was a pattern of rights violations, including the failure of most parish jails to comply with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all inmates be tested for HIV upon entry at a corrections facility.
Jail officials reportedly told HRW that they avoid testing because they can’t afford to treat those who test positive: a course of medication for a single patient can fall in the range of $23,000-$50,000 per year. But the HRW report claims that failing to conduct proper testing, interrupting patients’ treatment plans, and neglecting to provide linkages to treatment centers for people leaving jails could end up costing the state much more in the long run.
Strict adherence to antiretroviral medication regimes has been found to greatly enhance successful management of HIV, the report said, by strengthening a person’s immune system and decreasing the amount of virus in the body, thereby reducing the risk of transmission. By denying inmates access to their medications, Louisiana’s parish jails are contributing to an already grave epidemic: the state is home to more than 20,272 people living with HIV, with half of them diagnosed with AIDS, according to the report.
Jail officials’ behavior heightens the stigma around HIV, advocates said. McLemore told Rewire that Louisiana’s inmate population represents some of the country’s most vulnerable and heavily policed communities.
“These are people who are already stigmatized—add HIV, and the situation becomes almost unbearable. So when jail officials intentionally avoid or neglect testing and treatment, they are not only adding to that stigma, they are actually being discriminatory,” McLemore said, adding that some caseworkers claimed their HIV-positive clients avoided disclosing their status to jail staff because they had no assurance that it would guarantee care.
Darren Stanley, a case manager at the Philadelphia Center in Shreveport, told HRW that half his clients have spent time in jail, and the majority of them are denied their medications on the inside. One of his clients, who spent three weeks in the Caddo Parish Prison in 2013, paid the ultimate price.
“I tried to get in touch with him but he was very sick without his medications,” Stanley told HRW. “He died of AIDS two weeks after he got out.”
A formerly incarcerated woman named Joyce Tosten who spoke to HRW claimed parish jail officers informed her that she would need to have her mother deliver any necessary HIV medications to the jail. But she couldn’t call her mother because she didn’t have phone privileges at the time. Other sources alleged that even when family or friends brought medications to the jail, they were never delivered.
The problem does not stop at incarceration. According to HRW, “release from parish jail is often a haphazard process consisting of whatever is left of their medication package, a list of local HIV clinics, or nothing at all.”
The report includes a series of recommendations such as setting aside adequate funding for HIV testing and care, training jail staff on effective treatment and management options, and strengthening links with local care providers and community-based centers for returning citizens.
Deon Haywood, executive director of Women With A Vision (WWAV), a New Orleans-based grassroots health collective responding to the HIV epidemic in communities of color, told Rewire that HRW’s recommendations were “spot on.”
“They speak to the conditions we have seen in the community for the past 26 years,” she said. “Through my work at WWAV and other New Orleans agencies, I’ve witnessed the failure of incarceration to better the community. We urge Louisiana to invest in education rather than criminalization, and shift the state’s resources and policies towards solutions that address the systematic inequalities that poor communities of color face on a daily basis.”
HRW’s report adds to a list of woes that Louisiana residents confront on a daily basis. The state recently ranked last on a nationwide index measuring social justice issues like poverty and racial disparities.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect Louisiana’s correct incarceration rate.
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda launched an ad campaign to call out Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-WI) suggestion that members of the Congressional Black Caucus aren’t “standing up for their communities” if they support abortion access.
A reproductive justice group unveiled a new ad campaign Monday designed to call out Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-WI) suggestion that members of the Congressional Black Caucus aren’t “standing up for their communities” if they support abortion access.
The group has launched a six-figure ad buy aimed at addressing Duffy’s comments. The weeklong campaign includes homepage takeovers on the websites of major Washington, D.C. publications, including The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, and an ad buy in the Washington Post.
The group, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, was founded to address reproductive justice while “incorporating the intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity with the situational impacts of economics, politics, and culture that make up the lived experiences of Black women in this country.”
“Congressman Duffy is just one example of a politician whose pro-life agenda ends after birth,” said Marcela Howell, founder and president of In Our Own Voice, according to a press release. “He and his pro-life colleagues repeatedly vote against black women and children—from Medicaid expansion and minimum wage increases to access to contraception, medically-accurate sex education and affordable access to abortion. The pro-life agenda puts black women at risk, and it’s long past time to end the hypocrisy.”
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Duffy, speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in January, accused members of the Congressional Black Caucus of not standing up for Black communities when they support abortion rights.
“I hear a lot in this institution from minority leaders about how their communities are targeted. But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion,” said Duffy, who sports a 100 percent rating from the anti-choice group National Right to Life Committee. “There is a targeting going on in a lot of spaces and a lot of places, and it is going on in the abortion industry. And my friends, my liberals, Congressional Black Caucus members, talk about fighting for the defenseless, and the hopeless, and the downtrodden. But there is no one more hopeless and voiceless than an unborn baby. But their silence is deafening. I can’t hear them. Where are they standing up for their communities, advocating and fighting for them, their right to life?”
Duffy in September 2015 introduced the misleadingly named “Women’s Public Health and Safety Act,” which would have allowed states to stop working with health-care providers through Medicaid if those providers offer abortion care.
Duffy’s comments are just one example of a “hypocritical” anti-choice agenda that “puts black women at risk,” according to the In Our Own Voice press release.
The organization’s website points to policy issues opposed by anti-choice politicians that could help Black communities, including Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, and bolstering access to contraception and affordable abortion care.
Speaking about Duffy’s criticism of Black lawmakers, fellow Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore (D), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who proposed a bill in February aimed at reducing infant mortality, questioned why the Republican had not supported measures that would help the “hopeless and voiceless” he claimed to have spoken about.
“Representative Duffy’s hypocrisy on this issue is as predictable as it is offensive,” Moore said on the House floor in January. “If he truly believes that we all should be fighting for the ‘hopeless and voiceless’ among us, why doesn’t he stand with us as we defend Planned Parenthood, an organization committed to ensuring all communities, and especially those most in need, have access to high-quality care? Where was his support when my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues and I tried to secure greater funding for SNAP, WIC, and Head Start? Where was his advocacy when we needed Republican support to ensure that we have highly trained and qualified school personnel like social workers and counselors for our most vulnerable students?”
“It’s painfully obvious that Representative Duffy’s concern for life ends as soon as the umbilical cord is cut,” Moore continued.