National Prison Entrants’ Bloodborne Virus Survey (NPEBBVS)

The challenge: 

Prisoner populations are characterised by engagement in risk behaviours, most notably injecting drug use, amateur tattooing and violence. As a result, prisoners are at an increased risk of exposure to bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. International and Australia research has consistently shown prisoner populations to have higher rates of bloodborne viruses and some sexually transmitted infections than the general community. 

Prisoners are routinely excluded from general population health surveys, the National Prison Entrants’ Bloodborne Virus Survey, one of the few national collaborative prisoner projects in Australia, provides an important mechanism for the on-going monitoring of this at-risk group.

The project: 

The National Prison Entrants’ Bloodborne Virus Survey (NPEBBVS) has been conducted triennially across Australia since 2004 and is one of the few nationally collaborated prisoner health projects. It provides an internationally unique snapshot of the prevalence of bloodborne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among the prisoner population. The high rate of BBVs and STIs in this population highlights the need for ongoing monitoring of this at-risk group. Monitoring the prisoner population is an important step in enhancing overall community responses to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and planning appropriate treatment and prevention strategies.

The method: 

The NPEBBVS is a consecutive survey of new prison entrants conducted over a two week period across Australia every three years. The survey is made up of a brief questionnaire on risk behaviours, and a blood and urine test to screen for BBVs and STIs. The survey is designed to be incorporated into the prison reception process and is carried out by prison nurses. The data collected and test results can enhance the prisoners health assessment are also stored within prisoner health files future reference by health staff.

The results: 

The fifth iteration of the NPEBBVS is being conducted between October and December, 2016 at 18 prisons across Australia. The report will be published by mid 2017.

The impact: 

Monitoring the prisoner population is an important step in enhancing overall community responses to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and planning appropriate treatment and prevention strategies. Data from the NPEBBVS is also used within the National Prisoner Health Data Collection – The health of Australia’s prisoners report and has been cited in the Commonwealth Government’s national communicable disease strategies for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, STIs and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Bloodborne Virus and STI strategy.

Project contact: 
Professor and Program Head
Project collaborators: 

The NPEBBVS Steering Committee consists of:

  • Holly Beasley (WA Corrective Services)
  • Dr Michael Findlay, Alan Scarborough and Andrew Wiley (SA Prison Health Service)
  • Dr Hugh Heggie (NT Department of Health)
  • Marie Finley, Robert Kemp and Alun Richards (Queensland Health)
  • Dr Michael Levy (ACT Health)
  • Helen Meyer-Tinning and Camilla Preeston (Justice Health Victoria)
  • Deborah Siddall and Dr Chris Wake (Tasmanian Correctional Health Services)

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