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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 1429), legislation introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a longtime leader of Congressional efforts to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Stop AIDS in Prison Act requires the Bureau of Prisons to test all Federal prison inmates for HIV upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, unless an inmate opts out of taking the test. The bill also requires HIV/AIDS prevention education for all inmates and comprehensive treatment for those inmates who test positive.
"The Stop AIDS in Prison Act will help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among prison inmates and will protect people in the general community from transmission," said Congresswoman Waters.
Original cosponsors of the Stop AIDS in Prison Act include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over federal prisons.
The legislation also has the support of many health advocates. "AIDS Action, and our diverse nationwide membership of community-based HIV/AIDS service providers and public health departments applaud Congresswoman Waters' efforts to combat the HIV epidemic within federal prisons and address the public health threat it poses to our nation," said Ronald Johnson, deputy executive director of AIDS Action, a leading national organization dedicated to shaping public policy related to HIV/AIDS.
The Department of Justice reported in 2005 that the rate of confirmed AIDS cases in prisons was three times higher than in the general population. This legislation is designed to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS within prison as well as lessen the spread of the disease in the general community following the release of infected prisoners.
Congresswoman Waters first introduced the Stop AIDS in Prison Act during the 109th Congress. She reintroduced it in the 110th Congress, and it was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the full Senate did not complete action on the bill prior to adjournment.