Double Jeopardy

In NY State Blacks Rank Highest Among HIV-Positive Inmates

Rollins's colleague Antionettea "Dready" Etienne, like Laugier, was a member of the now famous ACE program while incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County. The program is a national role model for peer education on HIV in prisons, having produced countless women such as Dready (as she prefers to be called) and Laugier and spawned replicas in both male and female facilities around the state. As a result of the program's success, New York's system is widely considered one of the best at educating inmates on HIV, providing services for those who are positive, and easing their transition back into the community.

Rather than focusing on those living on the street, Dready targets young people and the drug lords they look up to. These teens are the sort who overlap with current and ex-offenders and form the link between HIV in the prison and HIV on the block. "When we talk to kids, we don't just go in there flappin' about HIV," Rollins explains. "We talk about how it's connected to drugs, how it's connected to violence, how it's connected to jails. Then they can relate to that. And they can relate to how that girl who's all up in the drug dealer's face 'cause he got a lot of gap in his pocket and drives a nice car might be willing to open her legs to him, not even realizing he might be HIV-positive."

But as with so many ills in the community, Dready says the biggest roadblock is that many of the teens she meets don't have much of a vision for tomorrow or much faith in their ability to survive to see it. Again, the forces that push some to commit the crimes that are sending black and brown people to prison erode others' belief that protecting themselves from HIV is worth fretting about.

Frenchie Laugier, a former inmate (left), now provides hot meals and hope during street outreach.
photo: Michael Sofronski
Frenchie Laugier, a former inmate (left), now provides hot meals and hope during street outreach.

"Some of them really have some powerful dreams and goals," Dready sighs, "but they don't have the feeling that they're gonna make it to see them accomplished."

"I talk to kids who feel if they make it to 25 they're old." says Rollins. "They believe,'If I make it tomorrow, yo' man I'm good.' There's something wrong with that."


Part I: Emergency Call by Kai Wright
How AIDS Is Hurting Black Communities

Part II: Black, Gay, At-Risk by Kai Wright
Homophobia, Racism, and Rejection Fuel Rising Infections

Part III: The Tuskegee Effect by Kemba Johnson
For Blacks, a 28-Year-Old Study Is One of Many Barriers to HIV Prevention

Part IV: Double Jeopardy by Kai Wright
In NY State Blacks Rank Highest Among HIV-Positive Inmates

Part V: Black Women and HIV by Sharon Lerner
Rising Infection Rate Reflects an Age-Old Gender Imbalance

« Previous Page
New York Concert Tickets