This June, we took a call from Dr. William R. Short, a Penn Medicine Infectious Disease physician specializing in OB/GYN. He needed immediate help: One of his patients, a young Philadelphia woman, pregnant and living with HIV, was scheduled to surrender in July to a small county jail more than 2½ hours away.
In May 2020, the woman had been convicted of a misdemeanor for bringing an incarcerated family member’s prescription drugs into a state prison, and a judge had sentenced her to serve nine to 23 months.
Dr. Short knew that with appropriate prenatal care, the risk of HIV transmission to a newborn can be reduced from 25% to less than 1%, but he was afraid the jail could not provide the treatment needed to protect his patient or her baby. He also knew the clock was ticking, because she was due to deliver in November.
With his patient’s permission, we contacted her court-appointed attorney and offered evidence to request that her sentence be changed to probation, and that she be transferred to Philadelphia. Dr. Short wrote a detailed letter explaining his patient’s needs.
She surrendered in July, hoping for the best for her baby and herself. We continued our efforts to bring her home. We connected her attorney to the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department to ensure a seamless transfer of supervision – a requirement for the judge reconsidering her sentence. A few days ago, the judge modified her sentence to two years of probation in Philadelphia, and she was released from custody Aug. 14. Today the expectant mother is back home, under the vigilant care of Dr. Short.