Health Officials Concerned Over Outbreak of HIV in Lithuanian Prison
The high rate of HIV infection in a Lithuanian prison has "unsettle[d]" the country because it could indicate that the virus is "far more prevalent" among the population than previously believed, AP/Yahoo! News reports. There are 15 prisons in Lithuania, and tests at 14 of these prisons found only 18 cases of HIV infection. But 263 inmates at Alytus prison have tested positive for the virus, a finding that nearly doubled the official number of HIV cases in the country (Dapkus, AP/Yahoo! News, 8/21). Lithuania had previously only recorded 361 HIV infections, giving it the lowest rate of infection in the region (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). The country "won praise" in the early 1990s for establishing condom distribution programs and needle distribution projects, but the Alytus outbreak has been viewed "as a public health failure," and several prison officials have lost their jobs as a result. While the HIV epidemic at Alytus was mainly attributed to injection drug use among prisoners, Irina Savtchenko, an adviser to UNAIDS, said that the high number of infections found at the prison has implications for the entire nation. "[P]risons usually ... reflect the situation in a country as a whole," she said, adding that it is difficult to know the scope of the country's epidemic because many people infected with HIV are never tested for the virus (AP/Yahoo! News, 8/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.