30 pc of
prisoners have hepatitis C
11th February 2007, 9:45 WST
One in three inmates of Australian prisons have hepatitis C, new
A sample of prisoners from Western Australia, NSW, Queensland
and Tasmania returned rates of 34 per cent for the blood-borne
Infection numbers were almost double this among inmates who
regularly injected drugs before they were incarcerated.
Previous estimates have put the prison infection rate at between
40 and 60 per cent.
The study, lead by the University of NSW Centre of Health
Research in Criminal Justice, also found that one in five had
hepatitis B but only one per cent were HIV positive.
Researchers tested almost 500 volunteers from a cross-section of
Australia's 25,000-strong prison population.
Results showed NSW inmates were "significantly more likely" to
test positive to hepatitis C than prisoners in other states.
Most sufferers were aged over 30 and had been in prison before.
Lead researcher Tony Butler said the findings, published in the
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, show the
need for better harm minimisation practices in prisons.
Authorities should also consider routinely including prisoners
in the national surveillance of hepatitis and HIV, he said.
"That would provide a more complete picture of blood-borne virus
epidemiology in Australia," Dr Butler said