European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 1119–1122 | Cite as

Prisoners are at risk for hepatitis C transmission

  • Tony Butler
  • Azar Kariminia
  • Michael Levy
  • John Kaldor


Objective: Determine the incidence of hepatitis C virus antibodies among a cohort of prisoners. Design: Follow-up study of a random sample of prisoners who participated in a cross-sectional survey in 1996. Setting: 29 correctional centres in New South Wales (Australia). Participants: 181 adult prisoners (163 men and 18 women). Results: The incidence of hepatitis C virus antibody among the 90 inmates who were seronegative at the first test in 1996 was 7.1 per 100 person-years (16 seroconverters). Among the 90 inmates, 37 had re-entered the prison system following release into the community and 53 had been continuously detained. The seroconversion rate was higher among the re-entrants compared with those who had been continuously incarcerated (10.8 vs. 4.5 per 100 person-years, p=0.07). However, when the data was stratified by injecting status, the seroconversion rate in the two groups was similar. Most of the seroconverters had histories of injecting drug users (14/16). The overall incidence among injectors was 19.3 per 100 person years (95% CI: 9.1–29.2). Conclusions: Hepatitis C transmission occurs inside the prison with injecting drug use the likely cause. Among non-injectors, tattooing was the most likely mode of transmission. Harm minimisation measures with proven effectiveness need to be considered for this environment.


Australia Hepatitis C Incidence Injecting drug use prisoners Tattooing 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Butler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Azar Kariminia
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Levy
    • 1
  • John Kaldor
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Health Research in Criminal JusticeMatraville, SydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of New South Wales (School of Public Health and Community Medicine)Sydney
  3. 3.National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, Level 2SydneyAustralia

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