NAT publish framework for tackling HIV in prisons

The National AIDS Trust has today published their new framework for tackling blood-borne viruses, including HIV, in prisons.

The report, entitled Tackling Blood Borne Viruses in Prison – A framework for best practice in the UK, is an update of the original framework published in 2007 which has had a significant impact on the way prisons approach blood-borne virus prevention, testing and care.

Prisoners in the UK are both disproportionately affected by and vulnerable to blood-borne viruses. The most recent figures available from the late nineties showed prisoners were 15 times more likely to be infected with HIV and over 20 times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than the general population in the UK.

There are two key reasons for these elevated rates of infection.  Firstly, prior to imprisonment a significant number of prisoners have engaged in high-risk activity such as injecting drugs or sex work. Secondly, prisoners are known to share needles and have unprotected sex during inprisonment.

This unique and practical resource, developed in close consultation with Offender Health (based in the Department of Health), is an invaluable tool and designed for those who have responsibilities for the health and well-being of prisoners and prison staff in the UK.  These new guidelines are being launched at a time of significant change in both the health and prison landscape; from the transformation of healthcare commissioning in England to the provision of prison healthcare in Scotland moving to the NHS.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

“Tackling blood-borne viruses is an important public health concern, especially in prisons where the number of people living with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are elevated.  Following this clear and practical guidance will help reduce the number of new infections in prison, encourage early diagnosis through increased testing, and ensure prisoners with blood-borne viruses have access to high quality treatment and support.  The implementation of these measures will also ensure cost-effectiveness in the long-term.”

Prof Louis Appleby, National Clinical Director for Health and Criminal Justice, comments:

“Fighting back against infection from blood borne viruses in prisons benefits not only the prisoner, but also their families and our wider community. This is why I am pleased that Offender Health has supported NAT in developing this important framework.  By increasing knowledge and awareness among both staff and prisoners, we can help identify those at risk of infection and ensure those who need it get the treatment and support they require.”

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You can download the full report ‘Tackling Blood Borne Viruses in Prison – A framework for best practice in the UK’ here.

Contained within their ‘Our Thinking’ section, The national AIDS Trust have a section with further links where you can find priories for change and further reading on the subject, located here.

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