Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 22, 2006
Contact: Margaret Justus, 713-236-0306

Ellis Requests AG Opinion on Mandatory HIV Testing for TDCJ Inmates

AUSTIN -- Senator Rodney Ellis requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General earlier this month on whether the Texas Department of Criminal Justice could require mandatory HIV testing of all inmates entering TDCJ.

Senator Ellis' desire to ensure inmates are tested upon entry arises from the increasing number of inmates contracting HIV in prison, and the threat to public health that arises when they are released, unaware that they have contracted HIV. According to studies, 17% 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. 2,627 current TDCJ inmates have tested positive for HIV based on routine voluntary testing, but almost 20% of inmates go untested at entry.

"It's clearly a serious public health and safety issue," said Ellis. "Whether we want to admit it or not, these individuals are spreading and contracting HIV in prison at rates far exceeding the general population, and eventually, they are going to return to our communities. If we are serious about combating the effects of HIV in our communities, we have to be serious about addressing these high risk populations. It's not only in the interest of inmates to know they are infected; it's in the interest of public health as a whole."

Ellis was the Senate sponsor of House Bill 43, authored by state Representative Yvonne Davis, which became law in the 2005. HB 43 requires Texas prison inmates to undergo mandatory HIV tests before they are released from prison to inform inmates when they have HIV in an effort promote the health and safety of Texans.