Prisoner populations are characterised by engagement in risk behaviours, most notably injecting drug use. Consequently they are at an increased risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Previous Australian research has shown that hepatitis C is between thirty to forty times higher among prisoners compared with the general community. Surveillance of this population is important to monitor trends in the prevalence of blood-borne viruses and changes over time in risk behaviours. This is the fifth NPEBBVS conducted thus far; others have been undertaken triennially since 2004.
- The final sample consisted of 431 participants. The overall response rate to the survey was 50%.
- No cases of HIV were detected among those prisoners screened in 2016.
- Rates of sexually transmissible infections were no higher than in the general population – chlamydia (4% of men, 7% of women), and gonorrhoea (2% of men, no women). For syphilis, around 4% of men and 17% of women had markers consistent with past or present infection. While 16% of all those tested had markers indicating possible current infection with syphilis, only 6 individuals (4 men and 2 woman) had serological markers suggesting possible current infection.
- Less than half of those screened in 2016 reported they had ever injected drugs (46%), which is similar to 2013 (45%). Of those with a history of injecting, 63% had injected in the past month.
- Tobacco smoking remains alarmingly high among with 87% of prisoners reporting they are current smokers. This is a slight reduction from 2013 (90%). A higher proportion of people who inject drugs were current tobacco smokers (90%) compared with those who had never injected drugs (84%).