HIV/AIDS and other bloodborne diseases


Prisons are extremely high-risk environments for transmission of HIV and other bloodborne viruses, such as hepatitis B and C. Moreover, certain populations that are highly vulnerable to infection have a higher probability of imprisonment because they use illicit drugs and engage in sex work. In most cases, high HIV and hepatitis rates in prisons are linked to the sharing of injecting equipment and unprotected sexual encounters. Syringe sharing among injecting drug users is always more common in prisons than in the community, as is sharing of other injection equipment (water, spoons), razors and toothbrushes (high risk for spread of hepatitis B and C). Unsafe practices such as tattooing, piercing and scarification are also common.

In many countries, HIV prevalence is much higher among prisoners than adults in the community, and often even higher among female prisoners.

Outbreaks of HIV infection have been documented in a number of prison systems in the WHO European Region (Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Scotland), demonstrating how rapidly HIV can spread unless effective action is taken to prevent transmission.