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People in prison experience  a higher burden of communicable diseases such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV often linked to a history of injecting drug use. In addition, incarceration can result in a higher risk of transmission of communicable diseases, due to factors such as overcrowding, poor healthcare facilities and delayed diagnosis. In their joint public health guidance published on Monday 23rd July at AIDS 2018, ECDC and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) outline evidence-based and effective measures to help prevent and control the transmission of blood-borne viruses in prison settings.

In the 31 countries of the European Union and European Economic Area, more than half a million people are held in a custodial facility on any given day. Incarceration represents an opportunity to address the healthcare needs of those people in prison who belong to hard-to-reach groups in the community, such as people who inject drugs.

Delivering health protection, prevention and harm reduction programmes in prisons will not only benefit the prison population but, by targeting ‘high transmission’ networks, can also reduce the future risk of transmission in the community.

The prevention and control of blood borne viruses among this particularly vulnerable population are important to improve their health and to stop the on-going transmission of viral hepatitis or HIV. Our joint guidance provides a valuable resource for planners and providers of healthcare in prisons to help them to address this specific public health issue’, says ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.

The guidance is presented at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam and ahead of World Hepatitis Day on 28 July.

Access the ECDC-EMCDDA (2018) Public health guidance on the prevention of blood-borne viruses in prison settings HERE.