Surveillance report Open Access
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A study was undertaken in Northern Ireland (NI) prisons to (i) determine prevalence of bloodborne viruses among inmates, (ii) estimate the extent of self-reported risk behaviours. All three prisons in NI were included in the study. Outcome measures included (i) antibodies to hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV) core antigen, HIV, (ii) self-reported risk behaviour. Five prisoners (0.75 %) tested positive for HBV, seven (1.1%) for HCV and none for HIV. Eleven per cent reported ever having injected drugs. Of these, 20% had started injecting while in prison, and 12% shared injecting equipment in prison. Two per cent had completed HBV immunisation. Injecting drugs was associated with HCV (adjusted prevalence ratio=5.2; 95% CI 0.9-16) and HBV infection (adjusted prevalence ratio=4.1; 95% CI 0.7-23). The low prevalence of bloodborne viruses within NI prisons is not consistent with findings of studies in other countries, possibly reflecting the unique sociopolitical situation in NI. In spite of knowledge of the risks of transmission of bloodborne viruses in prison, high-risk practices are occurring. Preventing risk behaviours and transmission of infection in prisons now poses a challenge for health services in the United Kingdom.


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