Black-white disparities in HIV/AIDS: the role of drug policy and the corrections system

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



African Americans; Criminal Law; Drug and Narcotic Control; European Continental Ancestry Group; HIV Infections; Health Policy; Humans; Prejudice; *Prisons; Risk Factors; Socioeconomic Factors; Substance-Related Disorders; United States


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Health and Medical Administration | Medical Jurisprudence


African Americans in the United States are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. We focus in this paper on the structural and contextual sources of HIV/AIDS risk, and suggest that among the most important of these sources are drug policy and the corrections system. In particular, high rates of exposure to the corrections system (including incarceration, probation, and parole) spurred in large part by federal and state governments' self-styled war on drugs in the United States, have disproportionately affected African Americans. We review a wide range of research literature to suggest how exposure to the corrections system may affect the HIV/AIDS related risks of drug users in general, and the disproportionate HIV risk faced by African Americans in particular. We then discuss the implications of the information reviewed for structural interventions to address African American HIV-related risk. Future research must further our understanding of the relations among drug policy, corrections, and race-based disparities in HIV/AIDS.


HIV/AIDS, race disparities, structural interventions, drug use, drug policy, criminal justice, corrections, probation, parole, incarceration

DOI of Published Version



J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2005 Nov;16(4 Suppl B):140-56. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of health care for the poor and underserved


At the time of publication, Kristin Mattocks was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID