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Blood-borne viruses in prison: guidelines launched for prevention, testing and treatment

Thursday, December 7, 2017

NAT (National AIDS Trust) has issued new guidelines to boost efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat blood-borne viruses (BBVs) in prisons. Prevalence of BBVs such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are four times higher amongst people in prisons than in the general population. Hepatitis accounts for 93% of viral infections reported in prisons.

Taking the opportunity to tackle BBVs in the transient prison population is crucial to curbing epidemics in the wider population. Prisons in England, Scotland and Wales are currently in the process of implementing programmes for BBV testing which include it being offered on an opt-out basis. NAT is hoping that the new guidance can support prisons in delivering testing effectively but also to go beyond this, ensuring that people living with BBVs in prisons have access to treatment and care that can lead to sustainable outcomes for health and well-being.

Kat Smithson, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT said: “Tackling BBVs in prisons is not only key to the health of those individuals in prison, but also to improving health outcomes in the wider public – prisons don’t exist in a vacuum.”

“Those who test positive can access care that will improve their health, reduce any risk of transmission, and stand them in good stead for resettlement after they are released.”

“It is simply not acceptable to have people in prison undiagnosed when we have the facilities to prevent, test and treat. But we know prisons are under enormous pressure and our framework is intended to be a useful and practical tool to support them to improve their approach to BBVs, from reception to release.”

Areas covered by the guide include awareness raising; vaccination; access to condoms and other preventive tools; staff training on BBVs and related stigma; and ensuring that there are no breaks in the provision of crucial medications to those who are already diagnosed. 

About NAT

NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.

Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.

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