Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, affect people from all walks of life, from health care professional workers to prison inmates. STD infection rates in the U.S., particularly in the prison system, create serious concerns for all citizens. According to a study by Theodore M. Hammett, Ph.D., almost 25% of HIV cases in the U.S. pass through the correctional system.
After hearing this troubling statistic, many want to know, “Do inmates get tested for STDs?” This question requires a more complex answer than a simple yes or no, so our experts from Rapid STD Testing explain everything you need to know below.
The only way to diagnose an STD is through testing. People outside the prison system can order a Rapid STD test online from companies like Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic. Inmates, however, cannot determine their infectious status or obtain medical treatment without confirmed test results.
If you’re wondering, “are inmates tested for STDs?” the answer is sometimes, depending on the location and particular disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a research study in 2008 that examined the prevention programs and testing procedures at 14 of the country’s largest correctional facilities. The examination found that while the positive chlamydia rates were high across the board, only five of the 14 jails offered comprehensive chlamydia testing programs. Among the four facilities mentioned above that offered testing, only half provided medical care to those with positive results.
The U.S. Department of Justice found that 21% of prisoners have infectious diseases, including STDs. Among all STD-positive inmates, only a portion receive adequate testing and treatments.
Not all states require mandatory testing for STDs for all prisoners before their release date. A comprehensive and enforced pre-release testing program could drastically reduce the spread of STDs to the general public.
Do facilities offer testing at intake? Not always. Sometimes people seek correctional facilities for the sole purpose of needing medical attention and tests, though they don’t always receive such help.
What STDs do jails test for? Chlamydia, trichomonas, syphilis, HIV, and viral hepatitis are the most prevalent STDs in the U.S. prison system, and therefore, the CDC recommends that facilities test for these infections.
Do inmates get tested for STDs like chlamydia? Facilities often complete chlamydia panels case-by-case, meaning they only test inmates who show signs of the infection. Unfortunately, many people carry chlamydia asymptomatically, spreading the disease without showing symptoms.
Young, sexually active women experience the greatest risks of contracting chlamydia. When groups of unknowingly infected individuals enter the small quarters of a prison system, the infection rates may increase significantly. The CDC recommends that all women under 35 and men under 30 receive chlamydia screenings during intake.
A study done on a group of inmates from an Ohio prison found that after a mandatory STD blood test of all inmates before release, the most common STD among participants was trichomonas. Of the 916 inmates, 19 contracted trichomonas during their time in prison.
Trichomonas is a parasitic infection spread through contact between sexual partners. Usually, women show symptoms, and men don’t. Untreated trichomonas can lead to pregnancy complications and other health concerns.
The CDC recommends that all females under 35 receive trichomonas intake testing with an option to opt out. Treatment for trichomonas is straightforward and costs as little as $30.
In June 1990, New York City endured a syphilis epidemic that led to mandatory testing across all local jails. At just one of these locations, 3.3% of new inmates tested positive. For the rest of the decade, syphilis rates declined until early 2001, when the previous 2.1% per every 100,000 infection rate increased to 2.2%.
That same year, the CDC found alarming rates of 10.5% for women and 5.1% for men in Texas correctional facilities. Most men who tested positive contracted syphilis through sex with other men. The CDC recommends that jails and prisons offer opt-out screening for syphilis based on the local area’s concern for the infection.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) spreads through bodily fluids, including blood and genital secretions, and begins asymptomatic before progressing into a serious medical concern. If HIV develops into AIDS, the body may struggle to fight off various infections. Many HIV-positive inmates don’t learn about their condition until receiving tests in jail.
While HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, it also commonly spreads through non-sexual contact, like sharing needles. Anyone with continuous drug abuse patterns has an increased risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Do inmates get tested for STDs like HIV? Sometimes. The CDC recommends testing all inmates upon arrival for HIV and offering support materials for high-risk behavior inmates upon release.
Viral hepatitis is an inflammatory infection that causes liver damage. The infection spreads through the ingestion of fecal matter, which can happen during sexual contact. Depending on the local prevalence, the CDC recommends screening all intake inmates for hepatitis A, B, and C and offering vaccinations for anyone at risk.
If you’re concerned about any of the above STDs, order a 10-panel STD test online from Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic.
A study in Brooklyn, New York, found that inmates incarcerated for under a year had a 30% increased risk of contracting an STD, while those held for over a year had a 40% increase. Why? Out of the 465 inmates in the study, 343 had sexual intercourse.
People in prison are more at risk of STDs because of the unsafe and unsanitary conditions, close quarters, and increased contact with other infected individuals. The Brooklyn study discovered that those incarcerated for under a year had increased chances of having sex with an infected partner.
The issue is, if you ask any correctional facility in the country, “do prisoners get tested for STDs?” the answer won’t always be yes. A lack of testing correlates directly with an increased infection spread rate. When people don’t know about their condition, they continue participating in activities that put themselves and their partners at risk of contracting dangerous diseases.
Often, facilities that provide testing don’t know how to respond properly to results. Some positive inmates don’t receive medical treatment for their condition. Certain facilities segregate HIV-positive inmates from others, blocking them from recreational activities, and offering zero medical privacy.
Aside from consensual sexual contact, STDs also spread through drug abuse and sexual assault, which frequently occur inside correctional facilities. Sharing needles is an enormous risk factor for spreading HIV and other STDs. Drug addicts often don’t receive the necessary resources inside or outside correctional facilities to help with their addiction or educate them on safe practices.
Facilities can reduce the high STD risks prisoners face by offering testing programs, sanitary devices, and educational materials.
Recent history and expanded testing policies have shown that the government attempted to make inmate STD testing an available, if not mandatory, process. However, certain restrictions make such an improvement difficult.
Mandatory screenings may infringe upon constitutional rights, and many facilities lack the resources to fund these programs in prison.
In May 2005, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to enforce mandatory HIV testing in Houston, which began the discussion of offering condoms to inmates. While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused this idea, Philadelphia and San Francisco both started distributing condoms in 2006 to combat STD spreading. Similar mandatory testing programs faced legal complications and eventually fizzled out.
As a better recourse, many facilities now use an opt-out approach, offering all inmates optional testing. In 2010, the Cook County jail adopted this opt-out HIV testing method, which it had tried years prior but lost the funding because the previous attempt received a class-action lawsuit for forcing people to take invasive tests.
Today, the CDC recommends adopting the opt-out screening approach across all correctional facilities. Better educational resources could also reduce widespread epidemic risks. For example, many don’t know the answers to the following questions:
Let’s return to the initial question: Do inmates get tested for STDs? Sometimes they do, though the CDC and other government actions show that correctional facilities might adopt more comprehensive policies soon.