Bonta Bill To Reduce HIV/AIDS Transmission In Prisons And Throughout California Passes Public Safety

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

AB 966 Expands Statewide Successful Condom Distribution Program in Prison to Protect Public Health

(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 prisons and communities throughout California passed the Public Safety Committee.

Bonta explained, “Sexually transmitted disease is a tragic reality of life in prison. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in prison is estimated to be at least 8 to 10 times higher than among the general population.

Bonta developed AB 966 based on the successful findings of a Solano State Prison condom distribution pilot project conducted in 2008. “The purpose of that pilot project was to determine the practicality and safety of condom distribution in a state prison,” Bonta explained. “The program was an indisputable success. My office drafted AB 966 based on the findings of the Solano pilot project. Once we had the data, the next logical step going forward was program expansion.”

AB 966 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to develop a five-year plan to distribute condoms in all state prisons. CDCR would have the authority to determine the order of prisons it includes in the program. The Solano pilot program cost approximately $1.39 per prisoner to implement; and the report concluded that this modest cost 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. 

“The data speaks for itself,” said Bonta. “Over the life of the patient, a single infection can cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. The long-term benefits to vulnerable communities, and to the budget, are well-worth the modest state investment in providing condoms to state prisoners. AB 966 is a simple and sound preventative public health policy that is evidence-based, cost effective, informed by a highly successful pilot project, and will save lives. I welcome the challenge of taking the lead on this issue by bringing all the stakeholders together to stand up for the vulnerable communities who are being affected by this devastating and preventable cycle of disease.

“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 nor do they create any public safety risk---but they do create an inexpensive barrier to a deadly disease,” Bonta concluded.

Support for the bill includes the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (sponsor); California Medical Association;  California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; California Academy of Preventive Medicine; Beyond AIDS; CAL-PEP (California Prevention and Education Project); APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles); California Communities United; WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases); HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County; 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; Harm Reduction in Prison Coalition; and Lambda Legal.

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. For more information, please visit our website.