DURBAN, South Africa—Efforts to halt the spread of HIV among African Americans, the most impacted group in the United States—particularly African American women—will not be successful without reducing the rate of mass incarceration among people of color, according to research made public at the International AIDS Conference.

One of the researchers, Dr. Chris Beyrer, president of the International AIDS Society and Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told a media delegation from the Black AIDS Institute:

“Black women in the U.S., if you look at their individual level of sexual risk, are less risky than Latino or even White women. And they have more than five times the infection rate. So how do we understand that? It turns out that the mass incarceration of African American men is fundamental to this and it’s because of the problem of lack of access to care” (once Black men are released from prison).

The United States warehouses more prisoners than any country in the world, with five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. There are 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails—a 500 percent increase over the past 40 years.

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