HIV is a growing problem in the prison population of today’s America. Some say between 40% and 60% of today’s prisoners are HIV+. But no one really knows because in most states no testing is required when first incarcerated. Testing is only required on release. Because of the high usage of drugs even in prisons, HIV can be passed on from one prisoner to another by using dirty needles! It can also be transmitted through sexual contact. And the popularity of using pins and needles for “homemade” tattoos is another potential danger. The fact is that the chances of becoming HIV+ in prison are as great, if not greater, than out of prison. The challenge for all of us, then, who know and care for those on the “inside” who are facing HIV is-what can we do?
We start by remembering that:
- HIV is a pain!There can be no question that being incarcerated is not fun. But in the minds of many, being incarcerated and HIV+ feels like a prison sentence and a death sentence at the same time.
- HIV makes you sick. The physical challenges of being HIV+ are many. Tiredness, nausea, and weakness are all parts of the immune system of the body breaking down over time. Even the medications of someone HIV+ can make them sick. It gets old fast.
- HIV makes you angry. The emotional strain on those who are HIV+ can be devestating. Anger, frustration, moodiness, even rage can sometimes be the companions of someone who is battling AIDS.
- HIV is incurable. As of today, there is no cure for HIV and AIDS. It can be slowed down with the right medications, and diet, but that’s all.
So what can we do?
- Share that Jesus is our Only Hope! So many do not know the liberty that only Jesus can give. When all you can see is a crumbled life
behind you, why try?? Unless you are given the Truth that only Jesus can take the most vile, broken, worthless, pointless life and through His forgiveness of our sin, give us a pure, whole, valuable, and purposeful Life- forever! But, remember, we must also live it if we share it!
- Try to work with your Chaplains. Not all chaplains know the Lord – but most do. Talk to him or her about yourself, your friend, or your family member who is HIV+. Having someone to talk to about all this can make a big difference in how we see life. Volunteer to help, train as a peer counselor, visit the AIDS ward, or help someone with HIV+ by writing letters for them.
- Be a Friend! It’s tough enough to be HIV+ but when no one wants to be around you because of it, the loneliness of a prison cell can make you feel like no one really understands. But you can offer friendship to a lonely heart. Ask the Lord to open an opportunity to talk or share with that person and pray that God uses this as an open door. Jesus is such a friend to us.
- HIV+ is Confidential!! Only those who are HIV+ should reveal their health status to someone else. That means without permission don’t tell someone else- no matter what! This is very important in reaching out with God’s love.
- Be patient. God sure has been patient with you and me. Give Him time to speak to the hearts of those around you. And don’t give up on anyone! Remember 2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
If you need more books, material, or prayer, please let us know. We’re here for you. May God bless you as you serve Christ Jesus on the “inside”.