At any one time, more than 40,000 individuals are detained in the prison system in Australia, with more than twice that number cycling through prison each year. Prisoners are one of the most disadvantaged and stigmatised groups in the community and endure some of the worst health conditions in society.

In Australia in 2016, two in three prisoners had used illicit drugs in the year prior to incarceration, two in five drank alcohol at risky levels and one in three had a long-term health condition or disability.

The majority of people in prison rapidly return to the broader society, so the spread of infectious diseases in the prison setting, is not only a concern for the prisoners themselves, but also for the health of the general community.

Our research at the Kirby Institute intersects with the justice system and prisoners in a number of ways. We monitor and analyse trends in blood-borne viruses and STIs and produce the National Prison Entrants’ Bloodborne Virus and Risk Behaviour Survey which is now becoming an annual national survey (AusHep) of the prevalence of the blood-borne virus infections and the uptake of treatment services. 

Our recently completed Surveillance and Treatment of prisoners with hepatitis C SToP-C trial was conducted in four NSW prisons and is was the first successful treatment-as-prevention study for hepatitis C worldwide. As the prison sector is becoming increasingly recognised as critical to the bnational hepatitis B and C elimination efforts, the Prisons evaluation of a one-stop-shop InterVentiOn to scale-up hepatitis C testing and Treatment: the PIVOT study is evaluating the feasibility and efficacy of a testing strategy for all newly incarcerated individuals for hepatitis B and C using point-of-care tests (POC) to facilitate rapid engagement in antiviral treatment.

Our programs that work in this area


Prisoners researchers     Prisoners projects