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Surveillance of HIV infection and related risk behaviour in European prisons
A multicentre pilot study

MICHEL ROTILY, CAREN WEILANDT, SHEILA M. BIRD, KERSTIN KALL, HARRY J.A. VAN HAASTRECHT, EMMA LANDOLO, SYLVETTE ROUSSEAU
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/11.3.243 243-250 First published online: 1 September 2001

Abstract

Background: In order to demonstrate the feasibility of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and related risk behaviour surveillance in European prisons, a multicentre pilot study was undertaken. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out in six European prisons (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Scotland and Sweden). Inmates were invited to complete a self-administered and anonymous questionnaire and to give a saliva sample in order to test for HIV antibodies. Results: Eight hundred and forty-seven out of 1,124 inmates participated in the survey (response rate 75%). Saliva from 817 inmates (73%) was collected and processed for HIV antibodies. Twenty-seven per cent reported that they had ever injected drugs and 49% of these reported they had Injected whilst In prison. Eighteen per cent of inmates reported that they had been tattooed whilst in prison, which was found to be higher among injecting drug users (IDUs). One and sixteen per cent reported that they had ever had homosexual and heterosexual intercourse in prison respectively. The HIV prevalence among IDUs was 4% (versus 1% among non-IDUs) (p=0.02). The proportions of inmates previously tested for hepatitis C and vaccinated against hepatitis B were 24 and 16% respectively. Conclusion: This survey demonstrates the feasibility of cross-sectional surveys in European prison inmates and highlights the importance of surveillance of HIV prevalence and related risk behaviour among inmates. The continuing high HIV prevalence and potential for HIV spread in prisons should encourage decision makers in implementing or enhancing harm reduction and education programmes and substance abuse treatment services in prison.

  • epidemiology
  • hepatitis
  • HIV infection
  • prison
  • surveillance