Study Finds High Hepatitis C and HIV Infection Rate in Canadian Federal Prisons
A new study by the Correctional Service of Canada shows that the HIV infection rate among federal prisoners has jumped 27% a year since 1990, "despite government efforts to control its spread," the Toronto Star reports. Conducted using a "new surveillance system" designed to track infectious diseases in prison, the report estimates that the HIV infection rate in federal prisons is 15 to 20 times higher than in the general population. In addition, roughly 33% of federal inmates have hepatitis C, a rate 50 times higher than outside the prison system. Ralf Jurgens, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said that intravenous drug use accounts for the high infection rate. Jurgens said that most of the infected drug users in prison are serving short sentences, which increases the chances that they might infect others after their release, and that the increase in infections "puts an added burden" on the health care system, the Star reports. By not controlling the spread of the disease, Jurgens said that the government has "failed to protect inmates," and therefore "society as a whole." He added, "Imprisonment is a sentence; imprisonment should not lead to an additional sentence of hepatitis C or HIV. [Inmates] should not have a higher risk than people outside to acquire infectious diseases" (Stepan, Toronto Star, 11/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.