“Every day about 200 people pass through the doorways of the Cook County Jail to have their clothes inspected, their pictures taken and their backgrounds checked.
Now the incarcerated face one more examination: an HIV test.
The Cook County Jail is testing everyone who goes through the intake process for HIV, unless they refuse, hoping to put a dent in the number of people who have the virus but don’t know it.
The approach, called opt-out HIV testing, has been in place for female inmates since April 2011, but the jail system expanded the program to include male inmates in late June.
Meanwhile, health officials plan to adopt a similar program for state prisons in the coming months.
Experts say correctional facilities have become a key battleground in the fight against HIV.
“It’s a window of opportunity for reaching them for education purposes,” said Cajetan Luna, executive director of the Center for Health Justice. “Once people get out in the community, it’s much harder to do that work…”