Current Affairs

HIV and hepatitis crisis in UK prisons

Amy Bourke May 1, 2007
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Prisoners in the UK are 15 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population in the UK, experts say.

The most recent figures, from 1997, show that prisons in the UK are facing a health crisis due to inadequate health services.

The figures show that prisoners are 20 times more likely to have hepatitis C than the general population, but ten years on experts predict that prisoners are even more likely to be infected.

The National AIDS Trust has produced a framework for better practice, which gives advice on what needs to be done to improve the UK’s response to blood-borne viruses in prisons.

Dame Ruth Runciman, deputy chair of the Prison Reform Trust and former chair of the National AIDS Trust, said:

“The response to HIV and Hepatitis C in prisons in the last two decades, both in terms of policy and practice, has been entirely inadequate, and these failings need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“At a crucial time for prison health, this pioneering initiative has the potential to significantly improve the response of prisons to blood-borne viruses, which will have enormous benefits for both individual and public health.”

The trust says that all prisons should have a strategic policy on HIV and Hepatitis C, and that prisons must identify opportunities for prevention and testing of viruses.

The trusts says that prisons must meet the needs of their staff in terms of occupational health, risk assessment and training, but that they must also promote health and training on inequality, tackling stigma and discrimination

Prisoners are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to be injecting drugs and sharing needles.

Prisoners may have been working in the sex industry, and large numbers have unprotected sex in prison.

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