Abstract – HIV screening and care for immigration detainees

Homer D. Venters, Jennifer McNeely, and Allen S. Keller

Health and Human Rights 11/2

Published December 2009


The detention of immigrants in the United States is a rapidly expanding endeavor with serious health consequences for the detainees. This detainee population represents non-criminal immigrants who are detained because of a visa violation or other immigration issue but who are not charged with any crime and do not enter the criminal justice system. HIV-positive detainees are especially vulnerable to lapses in proper medical care, and press reports have highlighted deaths and adverse medical outcomes among HIV-positive detainees. We have examined reports on detainee health issues published by numerous groups and conducted our own analysis of the health plan used to govern much of the specialty care for detainees who are HIV positive. We conclude that the system of immigration detention in the US fails to adequately screen detainees for HIV and delivers a substandard level of medical care to those with HIV. We provide several specific recommendations for improving screening and medical care among this highly vulnerable population.