HIV and Viral Hepatitis in Corrections: A Public Health Opportunity

  • Joseph A. Bick

Inmates are disproportionately impacted by communicable diseases such as HIV and viral hepatitis (Hammett et al., 2002, BOJ Statistics, 2002). Once incarcerated, the conditions that exist in most of the world’s jails and prisons create an ideal environment for the transmission of contagious diseases. Overcrowded communal living environments, delays in medical treatment, insufficient access to clean laundry, soap, and water, and prohibitions against the use of harm reduction measures such as condoms and needle exchange increase the probability that infectious diseases will be transmitted from one inmate to another. The transient status of inmates who are frequently and often abruptly moved from one location to another complicates the diagnosis of infection, recognition of an outbreak, interruption of transmission, performance of a contact investigation, and eradication of disease. In this chapter, I will explore the disproportionate impact of infectious diseases in jails and prisons on the health of the society at large, discuss some of the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in correctional public health, review the importance of enhanced interjurisdictional cooperation, and advocate for the creation of a more seamless system of health care for individuals as they move throughout the criminal justice system and return to the free world. Furthermore, I will address the importance of linking correctional health care with public health and community health providers, and argue for the importance of correctional settings as frontlines in our national strategies to reduce the prevalence of preventable diseases. These issues will be explored by discussing two illustrative diseases that significantly impact on the incarcerated: HIV and viral hepatitis.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph A. Bick
    • 1
  1. 1.California Department of Corrections and RehabilitationUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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