ATLANTA, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Untreated or overlooked illnesses in a prison population can expose whole communities to the risk of infection from a contagious disease, reports the latest brief released today by Community Voices, a national initiative to increase access to care, located at the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine: titled "Prison Health and the Health of the Public: Ties that Bind." Of the estimated 2.2 million men and women incarcerated in prisons and jails, many suffer with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Even more suffer from undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. Many correlate the catastrophic rise of HIV cases among African American woman with the return of HIV-positive men after their release from prison. The dramatic rise in HIV/AIDS rates among African American women is a virtual epidemic that is unnoticed and not responded to by those jails and prisons in which the deadly HIV/AIDS virus is transferred. Once released, far too many former prisoners have no guaranteed access to health insurance and thus, virtually no entr�e to a continuum of health services. Added to that, upon reentry, inmates often return to their low- income communities, cities, towns and neighborhoods with the fewest resources. The effect is to exacerbate health disparities already present while the unmet health needs of people in jails and prisons can threaten the well-being of their families, communities and society as a whole. The lack of consistent policies dedicated to the re-integration of recently released offenders into the community creates an additional burden on an already strained health care and human resource delivery system. Many of these individuals encounter difficulty managing the most basic elements for a successful reintegration into society, such as reconnecting with jobs, housing, and their families, and accessing needed health care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment. Community Voices is tasked with identifying guiding principles and seeking innovative models, strategies, and solutions to address these issues.
SOURCE Morehouse School of Medicine