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International News

Canada: Axed Prison Tattoo Program Too Short to Prove Worth -- Public Health Agency Head

January 11, 2007

One year is too brief a time to determine whether Canada's pilot prison tattoo program was effective at preventing blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C, Dr. David Butler-Jones said yesterday. This opinion from the chief of the Public Health Agency of Canada follows a recent statement by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that the pilot was not "demonstrably effective" and was a waste of taxpayer's money. Butler-Jones' remarks will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"I'm not criticizing the government any more than when I was a medical officer [of health]," said Butler-Jones. "It's really not appropriate for me to criticize an individual or community or a government based on its decision. My job is to make sure they have the best advice possible."

Day said the government believes taxes should be allocated towards "tackling crime and keeping drugs off our streets. We will continue to support effective programs that educate inmates on the health risks of using dirty needles."

A national survey of prisoners found 45 percent receive tattoos, and 17 percent have a body piercing. The pilot trained prisoners to give sterile tattoos under staff supervision.

"I think it would have been helpful, but at the same time governments who fund these things have every right to allocate the resource to those aspects [of broad prevention strategies] as they see as most important," said Butler-Jones.

More than 3,300 inmates, or 25 percent of the people in Canada's 54 prisons, have hepatitis C, and nearly 200 have HIV, according to Corrections Canada.

Back to other news for January 11, 2007

Adapted from:
Canadian Press
01.11.2007; Sheryl Ubelacker

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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.
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