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Alabama agrees to end HIV-positive inmate segregation

Sept. 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM   |   Comments

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sept. 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge has signed off on a settlement between the state of Alabama and HIV-positive prison inmates to desegregate those with the disease.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson approved the settlement Monday, which was reached July 31 after Thompson found inmates' rights had been violated under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Inmates, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in 2011 to end the practice of HIV-positive inmates being forced into segregated housing and banned from certain activities, Al.com reported.

The lawsuit will see male prisoners fully integrated in state penitentiaries by November 2014. The state also agreed to pay $1.3 million for the legal costs associated with the lawsuit. Prisoners were not granted a financial settlement individually under terms of the deal.

The practice dates back to the origins of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s though Thompson noted much has changed about HIV in the three decades since it first hit.

"Scientists were not yet certain as to how HIV was transmitted, and since the infection was so new, there were not yet adequate treatments," the judge wrote of the segregation policy's origins. "Today, the prognosis for a person who contracts HIV has changed drastically. With proper treatment, a person with HIV can live as long as one without HIV, and the danger that he will infect another is much lower."

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