This South Shore resident claims that during his week-long stay in a county jail in Princeton he was denied his HIV medication on the basis that it was too expensive for the facility to obtain.
Arick Buckles is now the subject of a letter written from the ACLU to his jailers, alleging that the assertion that he couldn't receive his meds in jail are both "inappropriate and unconstitutional."
Buckles, who was jailed under an outstanding warrant for forgery, told every jailer he came into contact with that he needed his medication, but was rebuffed by each and every one of them. His stay in jail was marked with increasing anxiety, as he was uncertain what the effects of being without his medication would be.
And indeed, he should have been anxious. Any doctor of infectious medicine can tell you that the risks associated with interruption of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) are legion. He runs the risk of his virus developing a mutation resistant to his medicine, removing vital treatment options from his future medical profile. While studies tend to focus on long-term interruptions, one question in my mind stands out: how the hell is cost any kind of justification for denying someone the medication that prolongs their life?
"Buckles, who said he experienced severe diarrhea after his release, described his time behind bars as terrifying, because 'I didn’t know what the offset of my not having those medications would be.'
"'I often wonder, if I had been a diabetic, would I have been denied medication,' he said."
The corrections department has had a weak response, essentially saying "we're looking into it."
As well they should. The above linked article notes that both the ACLU of Illinois and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago have received complaints of HIV-positive inmates lacking access to medication for years, to include an inmate that says his CD4 (T-Cell) count worsened after his stay in jail.
There are so many things wrong with this incident:
1. First, why are HIV meds prices so stinkin' high? Big Pharm's interests are being protected to the point that government institutions are opting out of providing life-saving medications to their wards on the basis of cost, and that's gross.
2. It's the responsibility for corrections facilities to provide the care that each inmate needs. PERIOD.
3. Why is it acceptable to deny someone with HIV their meds? Would, indeed, someone who needed daily injections of insulin be denied their medication, and what's the difference between the two? NOTHING. My HIV meds keep me alive, and I hope I am never denied access to them.