Human Rights Watch called on US authorities Friday to improve medical treatment for people with HIV/AIDS being held by the immigration system, who it said were not receiving appropriate care.
The rights watchdog said the US government was not even aware of the rate of infection among the 30,000 people being held by immigration authorities in US jails and detention centers, accusing Washington of substandard care policies.
The detainees include undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and legal permanent residents with a criminal history awaiting deportation.
"The US government has no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV or AIDS, how many need treatment, and how many are receiving the care that is necessary," said Megan McLemore, from the Human Rights Watch HIV/AIDS program.
In a 71-page report, "Chronic Indifference: HIV/AIDS Services for Immigrants Detained by the United States," the New York-based group said many detainees were denied -- or received delayed or interrupted -- treatment.
"The Department of Homeland Security's detention guidelines for HIV/AIDS care fail to meet both national and international standards for appropriate care," the rights group said in a statement.
"Although the US government 'outsources' much of its immigration detention... it cannot evade its responsibility to protect the well-being, health and lives of HIV-positive immigrants," said McLemore.
The report singled out the case of a 23-year-old HIV-positive transgender detainee who died in July after allegedly being denied treatment.
"The Department of Homeland Security needs to upgrade their policies and more closely monitor and ensure effective treatment for immigrants living with HIV or AIDS," said McLemore.
"Otherwise these individuals will continue to suffer, and even die, in the care of the US government."