Prisoner populations are characterised by engagement in a range of risk behaviours, most notably injecting drug use. Consequently they are at an increased risk of exposure to bloodborne 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. Therefore, surveillance of this population to detect the presence of bloodborne pathogens and identify trends in risk behaviours is important in planning effective prevention strategies.
This is the third prison entrants’ survey to have been conducted; the first was undertaken in 2004 and the second in 2007. The 2010 survey was enhanced to test for three sexually transmissible infections (STI) - chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis.
- The overall response rate to the survey was high at 76%.
- No cases of HIV were detected among the prisoners screened in 2010. This represents a small decrease from 2004 and 2007, both of which reported less than 1% nationally.
- Rates of sexually transmissible infections were no higher than in the general population – chlamydia (5% of men, 2% of women), and gonorrhoea (1% of men, 0 women). For syphilis, 6% of men and 6% of women had markers consistent with past or present infection, 2% had markers indicating possible current infection, and only 1 had an RPR titre level indicating current infection.
- Less than half of those screened in 2010 reported they had ever injected drugs (44%) which is down from 2007 (55%). Of these, 56% had injected in the past month.
- Amphetamine remains the most frequently reported drug last injected by prison entrants. Amphetamine substitution therapies should be investigated and service providers need to ensure that staff receive training in recognising and managing amphetamine withdrawal on entry to prison.