Society’s health is at risk when it comes to the propagation oh sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A new study claims that as the number of prisoners in the US increases, so does the chances of getting HIV.

By reducing the number of men who go to jail the spread of HIV would be slowly diminished, as well as a lower number of sexual partners for men and women, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a computer model that established the negative effects of men going to prison and the effects longer sentences also have on prisoners. Given the fact that men are incarcerated more often than women, the study focused only on men. In 2009, 954 out of every 100,000 men in the United States went to jail, compared to 68 out of every 100,000 women going to jail, according to the study.

Photo: Al Jazeera
Photo: Al Jazeera

The computer model created by a team of scientist from the University of Michigan produced a simulation of 250 “agents”, or people, having casual dates and sexual relationships. Running the simulation again including incarceration as an influencing factor showed amazing results. Researchers concluded that longer prison sentences resulted in more men and women in the community having more sexual partners. Consequently, increasing the possibilities of an HIV spread as well as other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

“The model shows that simply removing men and returning them to the community frequently can increase the number of sexual partners that both men and women have in the community,” said Dr. Andrea Knittel, a researcher at the University of California in San Francisco. “It supports the assertion that mass incarceration has complicated and far-reaching unintended consequences, and may have significant public health implications.”

According to these findings, one of the pertinent factors is the risk men who have been incarcerated have of either ending a relationship or becoming a less desirable sexual partner. As a result, the fact fewer men are involved in society’s sexual practice encourages sexual intercourse with other people, resulting in a higher chance of STDs.

So, as the average sentence for men grows in length, so does the risk of more HIV infection for communities all over the United States. The recent study proposes that by reducing prison sentences and creating a “more open criminal justice system”, the impact on sexual health will be beneficial, says Dr. Knittel. She then added that the main concern would be to support the inmate’s relationships and its endurance.

“Our model showed that high levels of incarceration likely play a role in community-level sexual behavior, and are likely detrimental in terms of sexual risk for HIV and other STDs,” said Dr. Andrea Knittel in a press release published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine.


Source: UPI