Custodial Settings and Hepatitis C

Lack of evidence-based harm reduction tools, such as needle and syringe programs, in custodial settings, in addition to over policing of people who use drugs, contributes to a significantly higher rate of hepatitis C among people in custodial settings when compared to those in the community, with some studies estimating that up to 50% of people in a custodial setting are living with hepatitis C, compared to around 1% in the general community.

Testing and treatment for hepatitis C is available in most of Australia’s custodial settings, however for a variety of reasons, such as early release or movement between prisons, some people living with hepatitis C are unable to access treatment.

In 2017 AIVL undertook an analysis of the hepatitis C needs of people in custodial settings, with a particular focus on people exiting these settings and returning to the community.  To improve hepatitis C treatment for people within or exiting custodial settings, the Needs analysis for people living with HCV after leaving custodial settings in Australia report makes recommendations including:

  • Developing, funding and implementing a dedicated National Strategy for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of blood-borne viruses and drug use in correctional settings (including juvenile justice)
  • Developing protocols for the prison based hepatitis C treatment system to be mainstreamed as part of the community hepatitis C treatment program. The transfer of patients from prions health services to community health services must be a priority to ensure treatment continues
  • A trial of a needle and syringe program in prison is recommended, in addition to increasing access to sterile tattooing and barbering equipment

The full report is available here