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 had shown that hepatitis C is up to forty times higher in prisoners compared with the general community. Monitoring this population for the presence of blood-borne pathogens and trends in risk behaviours is important in planning effective prevention strategies for this population.
This is the second prison entrants’ survey to have been conducted; the first was undertaken in 2004.
- The response rate to the survey was extremely high at 76%.
- The prevalence of HIV was low at less than 1% nationally in both men and women in both 2004 and 2007. However, in both 2004 and 2007 all but one case self-reported they were HIV negative but tested positive.
- In 2007, the overall prevalence of hepatitis C was 35%; it was highest in New South Wales and Victoria (42% and 41%) and lowest in Western Australia (21%).
- Overall 55% of those screened in 2007 had ever injected and, of these, 60% had done so in the past month.
- Screening for blood-borne viruses on entry to prison is an important step in preventing the spread of these infections to the wider community. In 2004, 2 out of 3 cases of HIV reported that they were HIV negative but tested positive, and in 2007, 2 out of 2 cases of HIV reported they were HIV negative but tested positive. Awareness of one’s status with regard to HIV and hepatitis is important in preventing the further spread of these infections.