Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major public health problem
A prison environment provides the opportunity for healthcare workers to focus on traditionally hard to reach patients.
In this study, researchers from Southampton, England, assessed the prevalence of HCV infection in a prison cluster. They also evaluated the effectiveness of a prison outreach service for hepatitis C.
The team established a nurse specialist-led clinic within the prisons. This offered health education on hepatitis C, advice on harm minimization, and HCV testing.
Any prisoners infected with HCV were offered access to treatment.
|30% of the prisoners tested had active HCV infection.|
The research team measure the level of service uptake, and diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C.
Overall, the team found that 9% of 1618 prisoners in this study accepted testing. They found that 30% of these prisoners had active HCV infection.
However, most prisoners were ineligible for treatment due to psychiatric illness, or did not receive treatment for logistic reasons.
The researchers determined that injecting drug use was the major risk factor in all cases.
The team also found that only 7% of HCV polymerase chain amplification positive inmates received treatment while in prison.
Dr Skipper's team concluded, "There is a large pool of HCV infected prisoners at risk of complications, constituting a source of infection during their sentence and after discharge".
"A prison outreach clinic and care pathway was perceived as effective in delivering health education, reducing the burden on prison and hospital services".
"It provided an opportunity for intervention but had a limited effect in eradicating HCV in prisoners and it remains unclear how this might be achieved".