Mental Health is Essential

By Ethan Macks

From PHN Issue 46, Spring/Summer 2021

With all the concern going around about COVID-19 and what is essential and what is not, I feel that there needs to be greater consideration for mental health.

Being incarcerated, I see a lot of stigma concerning the issue of mental health. Being labeled as SMI (Seriously Mentally Ill) on the streets, I’ve had ample experience with mental health and how it should be treated. The National Institute of Mental Health defines SMI as a “mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” SMI commonly refers to a diagnosis of psychotic disorders (schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

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Hepatitis C can be Cured — Let’s Make it Happen

By Frankie Snow and Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 46, Spring/Summer 2021

Getting access to hepatitis C testing and treatment continues to be an unfair fight for those in prison. About one-third of people living with hep C in the U.S. are incarcerated, but most states don’t offer testing in prison to let people know if they have the hep C virus. You may need to ask for a hep C test—and then ask again to make sure you get your test results. Most people who have hep C don’t know it, so testing is very important. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up until a person’s liver is badly damaged, which may be many years after they got the virus. Prison health officials often don’t want to test for hep C because they might have to pay for treatment if the test comes back positive. Everyone who has chronic hep C, meaning they’ve had it for more than six months, must be given medication.

Before COVID-19 came along, hep C was the No. 1 killer out of all the infectious diseases. But drug companies are allowed to set whatever price they want to charge for the medications to cure it, because we live in a society that values profit over people. The cost of treatment and money-minded politicians have meant that many corrections departments across the U.S. have refused to pay for the treatment to save people’s lives. The medications, which cure almost all cases of hep C, are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). The cost of DAAs is different from state to state, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, according to Mandy Altman of the National Hepatitis Corrections Network.

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COVID-19 Treatment Options

By Frankie Snow

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

The Search for the Right Treatments

Over the past year, many types of medications have been studied and tested as possible treatments for COVID-19. Currently there are some that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on an emergency basis and some that have been shown to be effective but are still being studied. It’s important to get health information from trusted sources and talk with a doctor about what is best for your health needs if you are seeking treatment for COVID-19.

Many people catch COVID-19 but do not require treatment because they do not have symptoms. Others may be able to recover on their own, with basic care like rest, drinking enough water, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Other cases become more severe and require further treatment. Reports from Prison Health News readers and journalists have indicated that prisons are not offering the same treatments available on the outside. The information in this article is being shared to help our readers know what treatments should be available to them. When filing a grievance or lawsuit, it may be helpful to specifically list what medications have not been offered. The following are different treatment options available outside prison, based on the severity of symptoms.

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What is a Latent HIV Reservoir?

From AIDSinfo.net, a program of the US Department of Health and Human Services

From PHN Issue 40, Summer/Fall 2019

Key Points

  • A latent HIV reservoir is a group of immune cells in the body that are infected with HIV but are not actively producing new HIV.
  • Finding ways to target and destroy latent reservoirs is a major challenge facing HIV researchers. Researchers are exploring different strategies for clearing out reservoirs.

What is a latent HIV reservoir?
A latent HIV reservoir is a group of immune cells in the body that are infected with HIV but are not actively producing new HIV. HIV attacks immune system cells in the body and uses the cells’ machinery to make copies of itself. However, some HIV-infected immune cells go into a resting (or latent) state. While in this resting state, the infected cells don’t produce new HIV. HIV can hide out inside these cells for years, forming a latent HIV reservoir. At any time, cells in the latent reservoir can become active again and start making more HIV.

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Understanding and Taking Control of Your High Blood Pressure

By Priyanka Anand and Neil Menon

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in our Winter 2017 Issue.


Most people have heard of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Almost half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, so this is very common.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood pushing against your blood vessels. When you have your blood pressure taken, the doctor or nurse will give you two numbers: your systolic blood pressure and your diastolic blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure is your highest blood pressure, when your heart is contracting, and the diastolic is your lowest blood pressure, when your heart is relaxed. For example, if your blood pressure is 120/80 (“one-twenty over eighty”), you have a systolic blood pressure of 120, and a diastolic blood pressure of 80.

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