When Arick Buckles got jailed last September for writing hot checks, he allegedly asked a Bureau County Jailer to help him get his HIV meds. Jail officials reportedly told him that “he couldn’t have his own pills brought to him from home because he kept them in a day-by-day organizer, not in their original containers.” Then they said they couldn’t buy him new medicine because his pill combo costs more than $2,000 a month.
So what’s a poz inmate to do?
Buckles only spent a week in jail and so he was able to get back on his meds quickly, but other HIV+ inmates aren’t always so lucky:
ACLU attorney John Knight said poor HIV treatment is a common problem in jails and prisons, partly because of the high cost of the drugs. The Illinois ACLU has received similar complaints from HIV-positive former jail detainees in St. Clair and La Salle counties, including from a woman who said her virus count went from undetectable to detectable after a month in jail without medications, Knight said.??
Last year, a former inmate sued Cook County claiming he didn’t get his HIV drugs while in jail, and 16 federal lawsuits were filed by HIV-positive inmates claiming their treatment was delayed or denied…
Peoria-based Advanced Correctional Healthcare delivers the jail’s health services for about $35,000 a year. The company’s CEO, Dr. Norman Johnson… downplayed the danger of a delay in treatment, which he acknowledged was a common occurrence in small jails.??”It’s not the end of the world and it’s not going to suddenly reverse the patient’s health,” Johnson said. “They’re not suddenly going to crash and burn. That doesn’t happen.”??
Dr. Robert Murphy, an infectious disease specialist from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said a week without HIV meeds can have “devastating consequences”, making the virus’ effects more pronounced, more drug resistant, and making the person more contagious to others.
Buckle isn’t suing yet because first he would like to see how the Illinois Department of Corrections responds. But he has said, “I’m [just] interested in them correcting what they did wrong,” so that future inmates receive better care.
In the past we’ve discussed how much medical care prisons should provide trans inmates, but this raises a different health issue that isn’t entirely LGBT-related. In fact, regardless of whether Mr. Buckles is even queer, this issue easily cuts across the full sexual spectrum.