Australian prisons face danger of HIV epidemicOctober 16th, 2011 - 10:11 am ICT by IANS
Sydney, Oct 16 (IANS) Prisoners and health experts are concerned over a looming HIV epidemic in Australian prisons.
The warning has came following a test report undertaken in August showing that 40 percent of inmates at a correctional centre in Canberra tested positive to Hepatitis C, Xinhua reported.
According to Alex Wodak, the head of the Alcohol and Drug Service based at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, roughly 25 percent of Australia’s prison population are injecting drugs, and he is concerned about the risk of an HIV explosion in Australia originating in prisons.
“Were Australia to have an epidemic of HIV beginning among people who inject drugs, it is almost certain that it would begin in one of our prisons. So we are very exposed to this risk,” ABC News quoted Wodak as saying.
The Australia Capital Territory state government has proposed a trial prison needle exchange programme in Canberra’s correctional center, and Paul Cubitt, who currently works at the Alexander Maconochie Center in Canberra, said he has never seen so many syringes in a jail.
“Under a controlled regime it will actually take those needles that currently exist within a correctional centre out of the environment, and prisoners will be more willing to use a clean item under a level of anonymity which then protects them and protects staff,” he said.
According to the Community and Public Sector Union’s national secretary, Nadine Flood, agrees action must be taken to curb prisoner drug use.
Wodak noted that prison needle exchange programmes have been operating overseas for over a decade with ten countries provide inmates with clean needles, and said it is shameful Australian prisons are lagging behind.
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