HIV has been a plague for about 4 decades now, and despite the fact that science has made significant progress, it still hasn’t managed to eliminate the disease. On the contrary, multiple strains have now become resistant to the most efficient forms of medicine, urging scientists to come up with a plan. For this very purpose, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan published a paper saying that HIV can be combated by decreasing prison sentences.
According to the study, either reducing the number of jail sentences or that of time spent in jail can significantly slow down the spread of HIV we’ve seen lately. It basically works by reducing the number of sexual partners had by both incarcerated men and women.
According to the Michigan team, the more people go to prison and the more they stay there, the bigger the number of sexual partners they have, and the higher the chance of them spreading the deadly virus to other knowing or unknowing partners.
The team behind the research came up with a computer model which showed that by removing men and women from society and then returning them frequently will increase the number of sexual partners they have. This cements the idea that mass incarceration has widespread and complex ramifications, including related to public health.
Because of the tendency of men to end up in prison far more than women (2009 saw 954 out of 100,000 men and 68 out of 100,000 women going to prison), the scientists focused their research paper on them, despite the model taking into account both men and women.
The computer simulation
For the study, the team of scientists built a complex computer model community consisting of 250 simulated individuals, all dating and having sexual relationships. Things went darker from there.
The team then ran a simulation in order to find out how many sexual partners the men and women would have, based on sociological data collected previously. They proceeded to run multiple simulations for the same virtual individuals, only this time incarcerated.
As expected, incarceration increased the number of sexual partners for the individuals that went to prison, both while serving their time and after they got out of prison.
This allowed the team of researchers to conclude that high levels of incarceration lead to a high number of sexual partners, and an even higher number of unprotected sexual relationships. They suggest that an improved justice system could prove invaluable to stopping the spread of HIV.
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