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NAT has today published their new framework for tackling blood-borne viruses, including HIV, in prisons. The report ‘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, during imprisonment there are significant numbers of prisoners sharing needles and having unprotected sex.
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.’
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