Australia: Dirty Needles Spreading Hepatitis C in Jail
August 29, 2005
To stem what it decries as the "rampant" tide of hepatitis C infections in Australian prisons, the prisoner advocacy group Justice Action is calling for the creation of needle-exchange programs.
In its latest prison newspaper, Just Us, the group said more than one-third of the country's 23,000 prisoners have hepatitis C (HCV). In comparison, just 1 percent of the general Australian population is infected with HCV. In New South Wales, it is believed that 68 percent of incarcerated women and 40 percent of men have the virus, while estimates indicate that half of all prisoners in that state have a history of injecting drug use. "Around a quarter of prisoners continue in their furtive injecting and hasty cleaning of the hundreds of reused, resharpened, dirty, pitted needles that circulate around the prisons. Almost all of those prisoners will eventually be released to carry the virus back to their communities," said Justice Action researcher Michael Strutt.
An official needle-exchange program is the best and most cost-effective way of controlling HCV in prisons, says Justice Action. According to the Australian National Council on Drugs, 19 official prison exchange programs operate abroad and not one has reported needles being used as a weapon.
Australian Associated Press
08.29.05; Saffron Howden
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.