Governor Considers Bonta Bill to Reduce HIV/AIDS Transmission in Prisons and Throughout California

Thursday, September 12, 2013

AB 999 Expands Statewide Successful Public Health Prison Condom Distribution Program

(OAKLAND, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is proud to announce that his bill to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs in California’s prisons and throughout California passed both houses of the Legislature this week and is now before Governor Brown for consideration.

“Sexually transmitted disease is a tragic reality of life in prison. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in prison is 8 to 10 times higher than among the general population. Our state must address this unsettling and sometimes disturbing topic head-on and realize that the long-term benefits to vulnerable communities, and to the budget, are well-worth the modest state investment,” said Assemblymember Bonta.

Bonta further explained that AB 999 is the result of the successful findings of a Solano State Prison condom pilot project conducted in 2008. “My office carefully drafted AB 999 as a direct response to the findings of the Solano pilot project. The purpose of the pilot project was to determine the practicality of condom distribution in a state prison. The program was an indisputable success. Now that we have the data, it’s time to expand the program statewide in a prudent manner, consistent with the findings of the pilot project.”

AB 999 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to implement a five-year phase-in to distribute condoms in all state prisons. CDCR would have the authority to determine the order of prisons it includes in the program, with a goal of including at least five prisons per year beginning in 2015. The Solano pilot cost approximately $1.39 per prisoner to implement; and the report concluded that this modest cost of the program paid for itself if the program averted just 2.7 to 5.5 infections per year. According to the California Department of Health Services, the average cost per patient with HIV in the Medi-Cal system is $23,964 per year.  Over the life of the patient, a single infection can cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, represented by President Michael Weinstein, strongly supports the bill and urges the Governor to swiftly sign it. “The state has a legal and a moral obligation to provide medical care and treatment for individuals incarcerated in its prison system. We believe that making condoms available in prison can go a long way to help stem the transmission of a number of STDS, including HIV, among prison populations. AB 999 is a prudent public health measure which will improve health outcomes and reduce costs to an already overburdened prison health system in California,” said Weinstein.

Bonta continued, “By taking this most basic step in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, we are not only advocating for the improved health of prisoners, but we are also protecting communities across the state that could potentially be harmed by communicable diseases when former prisoners relocate to neighborhoods upon reentry. The Solano pilot project found that when condoms are distributed in prisons, they are used. The condoms don’t increase the incidence of consensual sex or rape, but they do create an inexpensive barrier to a deadly disease.

“AB 999 is a simple and sound preventative public health policy that is data-driven, cost effective, informed by a highly successful pilot project, and will save lives. I am proud to take a leadership role on this issue and stand up for the vulnerable communities who are being affected by this devastating and preventable cycle of disease,” concluded Bonta.

Support for the bill includes the California Medical Association;  American Civil Liberties Union of California;  AIDS Healthcare Foundation; California Academy of Preventive Medicine; California Public Defenders Association; Beyond Aids; CAL-PEP (California Prevention and Education Project); APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles); Gay and Lesbian Center; WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases); Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Allen Temple Health & Social Services Ministries; Alameda County Board of Supervisors; the Health Officers Association of California; Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association; and Lambda Legal.

Visit AB 999 to read the full text of the bill.

Assemblymember Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He is the Chair of the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee and the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay. Bonta is also a member of the Assembly Health, Transportation, Banking & Finance, and Elections & Redistricting Committees.