Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Legislation to Require AIDS Screening of Released Texas Prisoners

HB 43 will require testing of all TDCJ inmates are tested upon release

(Austin)//The Texas Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to require mandatory AIDS screening of Texas prisoners upon release from prison. House Bill 43 by Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) addresses the growing problem of HIV-positive inmates returning to the community unaware they have contracted the disease.

The increasing number of inmates contracting HIV in prison and returning to the community has become a genuine threat to public health. Inmates often do not know that they have contracted HIV while in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. According to studies, an alarming 17 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States have spent time in the U.S. Correctional System, where the prevalence rate of AIDS is six times higher than the general public.

"This legislation is the first step in raising awareness of the growing AIDS problem in Texas prisons," said Ellis. "We need to overcome our discomfort and attack the problem, because it is costing lives inside and outside of our prisons."

House Bill 43 would promote the health and safety of Texans by requiring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to conduct mandatory HIV tests on inmates before they are released from custody. The results of these tests would then be reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and used to inform inmates that they have HIV, and to implement policies to prevent the spread of HIV to the general public.

Nineteen other states currently mandate HIV/AIDS tests for inmates, and many other states make testing available to inmates upon request. There are currently over 150,000 inmates in Texas prisoners, the largest prison population in the nation.

"We have the largest prison population in the nation and the largest potential problem," said Ellis. "It is time for Texas to take the health of our prisoners and citizens seriously."