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A partnership approach to providing on-site HIV services for probationers and parolees: a pilot study from Alabama, USA

Bronwen Lichtenstein, Brad Wayne Barber, and The West Alabama AIDS Outreach Partner Group

Abstract


Introduction: HIV in the United States is concentrated in the South, an impoverished region with marked health disparities and high rates of incarceration, particularly among African Americans. In the Deep South state of Alabama, a policy directive to reduce prison overcrowding has diverted large numbers of convicted felons to community supervision. Probation and parole offices have yet to provide the HIV education and testing services that are offered in state prisons. This study sought to implement on-site HIV services for probationers and parolees through an intersectoral programme involving law enforcement, university and HIV agency employees. The three main objectives were to (1) involve probation/parole officers in planning, execution and assessment of the programme, (2) provide HIV education to the officers and (3) offer voluntary pretest HIV counselling and testing to probationers and parolees.

Methods: The partnered programme was conducted between October and December 2015. Offenders who were recently sentenced to probation (“new offenders”), received HIV education during orientation. Offenders already under supervision prior to the programme (“current offenders”) learned about the on-site services during scheduled office visits. Outcomes were measured through officer assessments, informal feedback and uptake of HIV services among offenders.

Results: A total of 86 new and 249 current offenders reported during the programme (N=335). Almost one-third (31.4%) of new offenders sought HIV testing, while only 3.2% of current offenders were screened for HIV. Refusals among current offenders invoked monogamy, time pressures, being tested in prison, fear of positive test results and concerns about being labelled as gay or unfaithful to women partners. Officers rated the programme as worthwhile and feasible to implement at other offices.

Conclusions: The partnership approach ensured support from law enforcement and intersectoral cooperation throughout the programme. HIV training for officers reduced discomfort over HIV and fostered their willingness to be active agents for referral to HIV services. Voluntary testing was enhanced by the HIV employee’s educational role, particularly during orientation sessions for new offenders. The almost one-third success rate in HIV testing among new offenders suggests that future efforts should concentrate on this group in order to maximize participation at the probation and parole office.

Keywords: community-based HIV partnership; probation and parole; HIV education and testing.

(Published: 18 July 2016)

Citation: Lichtenstein B et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2016, 19(Suppl 3):20868

http://www.jiasociety.org/index.php/jias/article/view/20868 | http://dx.doi.org/10.7448/IAS.19.4.20868




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