My Involvement with the HIV/AIDS Awareness Program at the Oregon State Penitentiary

By Timothy Hinkhouse

From PHN Issue 27, Winter 2016

In the mid-1990s, it was brought to the attention of the health staff at the Oregon State Penitentiary that an HIV/AIDS education program needed to be assembled to educate the population about this “scary new disease.” The Oregon Health Department contractor who was doing the HIV testing and counseling at the time brought it to their attention because she lost her brother to AIDS and she wanted to help those still alive. A team of incarcerated people who worked well together put together an outline for an education program, the HIV/AIDS Awareness Program (HAAP). We came together because we were on the same page about the necessity of reducing the rate of new infections and clearing up prevalent misconceptions about exposure and transmission. Continue reading “My Involvement with the HIV/AIDS Awareness Program at the Oregon State Penitentiary”

Getting Out Alive

By Teresa Sullivan

When I went to jail in 2005, one of the biggest problems that I had was at the medication window. One day going to get my HIV medications at the window, I looked at the meds in the cup and they were the wrong meds. There was one too many of the same meds for my HIV medications, and one med I never saw before. This was a big problem because I know that taking the wrong dose of my meds would make me sick – and that med that I never saw before in the cup was not the medication that the doctor ordered for me.

Being told if I did not take the medication in the cup that I would have to go to the hole – that made me very scared, and so I took the medications. Let me say, if I knew what I know today I would have never done that stupid thing, because I got so sick that they had to take me to the ER and I could have died. It is important to know your rights about taking medication while in jail. Today I am an advocate for people that have HIV/AIDS and are in the county jails system. I will never let this happen to someone again while they are in the county jails system. I will always make sure that they know their rights about taking their medications while in jail, and when they are about to come home, I will continue to advocate for their needs.

Continue reading “Getting Out Alive”

Hearts on a Wire

By Najee Gibson

A lot of inmates from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community feel lonely because either their families gave up hope for them, or they’re so caught up in the system that they feel like there’s no hope for them when they come out. So they stay back in the same addictive behaviors when they come out, which is not healthy for someone living with HIV.

I did 5 ½ years. I heard about Hearts on a Wire like 2 months before I got released from prison. They were doing an anonymous questionnaire for members of the LGBT community in state facilities: Were you getting health care? How were you being treated? I took the survey and informed them that I was going to be released in April. So they opened their arms and told me to come into the office. That’s how I got plugged in, and from there, things started to blossom. I liked what I heard. All of us need to be understood and cared for, and someone to identify with our hurt. Hearts on a Wire could identify with my hurt, and the bullshit that I put up with being incarcerated, being a person of color – the no-nos, the punishments.

Hearts on a Wire is about 2 years old. We cater to inmates in state facilities in Pennsylvania. We meet every Wednesday, and you pass on what was given to you. We make cards that say, “Keep your head up,” and send them to inmates.

Continue reading “Hearts on a Wire”