Journal of the International AIDS Society
The high prevalence of HIV infection among prisoners and pre-trial detainees, combined with overcrowding and sub-standard living conditions sometimes amounting to inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of international law, make prisons and other detention centres a high risk environment for the transmission of HIV. Ultimately, this contributes to HIV epidemics in the communities to which prisoners return upon their release. This study reviews the evidence regarding HIV prevalence, risk behaviours and transmission in prisons along with evidence of the effectiveness of interventions and approaches to reduce the risk behaviours and, consequently, HIV transmission in prisons. There is a large body of evidence from countries around the world of what prison systems can do to prevent HIV transmission. In particular, condom distribution programmes, accompanied by measures to prevent the occurrence of rape and other forms of non-consensual sex, needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapies, have proven effective at reducing HIV risk behaviours in a wide range of prison environments without resulting in negative consequences for the health of prison staff or prisoners. The introduction of these programmes in prisons is therefore warranted as part of comprehensive programmes to address HIV in prisons, including HIV education, voluntary HIV testing and counselling, and provision of antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive prisoners.
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