NDARC Technical Report No. 95 (2000)
Over 50 percent of Australian IDUs test positive for hepatitis C infection. With similar proportions of IDUs reporting a history of imprisonment, it is not surprising that hepatitis C infection is one of the most prevalent blood borne viral infections in prison populations. Approximately one third of inmates are infected with hepatitis C. No data exist on incidence of hepatitis C among incarcerated IDUs in Australia. However, hepatitis C incidence is likely to be higher among IDUs in prison than in the community.
The study of hepatitis C infection and its prevention in the prison setting is a crucial part of the response of the broader community to the hepatitis C epidemic. Prison systems provide major challenges when conducting research such as gaining access to inmates, obtaining representative samples, ensuring reports of risk behaviours are reliable and collecting conclusive evidence of transmission in prison. Despite indications that the incidence of blood borne viral infections are higher in prison than in the community, only a handful of cases of HIV and hepatitis C transmission among prisoners have been documented in the world.
The aims of this Discussion Paper are: (1) to encourage the development of a nationwide program for monitoring hepatitis C infection among prisoners in Australia; and (2) to reduce hepatitis C transmission among prisoners by facilitating the introduction or expansion of effective prevention measures.
The Plan addresses the following areas: