A new study issued by the University of Michigan managed to infuriate public opinion by making a controversial link. According to researchers, shorter prison time can decrease HIV spread by decreasing the number of sexual partners for the men and women within the community.
The study used a computer simulation to analyze 250 subjects. What they discovered was that men who were incarcerated had a larger tendency to engage in unprotected sexual activities than men who were living freely. The conclusion was that men who were imprisoned for longer periods of time would ultimately increase the spread of HIV.
According to the data collected beforehand, for every 100,000 residents within a community there are 954 men incarcerated and 68 women behind bars. Because the population of imprisoned males is much larger than that of females, the researchers decided to focus their attention towards males and try to correlate the period of incarceration with the risk of HIV infection.
The computer simulation included a number of scenarios, such as people dating or having sexual relationships, but after incorporating the prison factor, they discovered that long prison sentences would lead to multiple sexual partners among inmates, which would ultimately cause a greater HIV spread.
Dr. Andrea Knittel, lead author of the study, explains that people are not usually attracted to someone who is incarcerated and so when somebody goes to prison, most of the times their respective partner abandons them. This leads the inmates to engage in a promiscuous behavior inside the prison establishments.
This study certainly puts a new perspective on what we normally believed to be the effects of incarceration over a community as a whole. There is already an increased concern regarding overpopulated prison institutions and talks of decreasing prison sentences for certain types of crimes, so this news could just add more fuel to the fire.
Having this new information at hand, the only thing left to wonder is: What is the lesser harm? Having criminals get out of prison early and thus encouraging and rewarding illegal activities under a scientific-based understanding or risking an even greater spread of HIV?
Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether imprisonment institutions will be able to address this issue through appropriate educational programs and whether this research will have any echo inside official circles.
Regardless of the possible outcomes, the study remains an ingenious and innovative perspective on HIV, one that will definitely stir a number of social discussions and comments in the days to come.
Image Source: Citylab