The Reagan administration has ruled out providing condoms to federal inmates to curb the spread of AIDS and may consider separate prisons for victims of the disease, a key official said.
Assistant Surgeon General Robert L. Brutsche, who heads the 2-week-old AIDS testing program for federal prisoners, said in an interview last week that there is strong sentiment in the administration against distributing condoms within the federal prison system.
Brutsche, also medical director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said homosexual sex is against prison regulations, "and we don't feel we can have a two-faced position" by passing out condoms.
"That has really been ruled out at the present time," he said.
Vermont prison officials said in March that inmates in that state's institutions could begin getting condoms on request. A similar pilot program was begun in New York City jails the following month.
There has been talk within the administration of having separate prisons for inmates testing positive for the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus.
"Obviously it's something we have to keep in mind," Brutsche said. "It would be too strong to say we are considering it. It's been talked about briefly."
The idea's drawbacks include staffing difficulties and the fact that it would force prison officials to group "all different classes of prisoners together with only one thing in common -- AIDS," Brutsche said.
Brutsche was interviewed as the government slowly began receiving results from the program, begun June 15, of conducting AIDS tests on incoming and outgoing prisoners at the 47 federal prisons. The results are to be studied and initial conclusions made after Aug. 13, when the testing is 60 days old.
At that time the administration may discontinue testing new prisoners and keep only the part of the program involving inmates about to be discharged, Brutsche said.
However, the administration plans to perform tests every six months on all new inmates not found this summer to be carrying the AIDS virus. By tracking this study group for as long as they are in jail, officials hope to learn about the risks of AIDS exposure among new inmates.
According to prisons bureau spokeswoman Maryellen Thoms, 297 federal inmates have been found infected with the virus since 1981.