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Delaware researchers collaborate on study to improve services for HIV positive inmates

Delaware Public Media

According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Justice statistics, over 20,000 of 2.2 million inmates nationwide have HIV. Delaware usually has 81 to 90 inmates with HIV.

Christy Visher, director of the Center for Drug and Health Studies at University of Delaware, said HIV positive inmates will often go off their medication, especially after being released.

‘People who are HIV positive in prison are getting medication but when often when they get released, they don’t have connection to actual treatment and they fall off, which is a very dangerous situation for them and the community," said Visher.

Visher collaborated with researchers at Christiana Care Health System and the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution to implement something called “change teams.” This is a group of people devoted to developing a system to ensure that HIV positive inmates are continually treated as they transition from the correctional facility into the community upon release.

“So what the change team did was to figure out how they could more concretely link people leaving prison to the community treatment agency by making sure there is a specific procedure to alert the community treatment facility at Christiana Care that someone was being released with HIV," said Visher.


While change teams have shown marked improvements in one Delaware facility, Visher said many challenges remain in extending the study’s recommendations to other state correctional systems.

The study on the use of change teams in Delaware was published in this month’s issue of the Journal for Correctional Health Care. It is also part of a larger 5-year national study on healthcare services for HIV positive inmates, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.