Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jul 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Dr Muris Houston, Medical Correspondent


More than one prisoner in five began to inject drugs while in prison,
according to a recently published study.

Drug use and infection with hepatitis C are endemic among the State's
prisoners, the study carried out by researchers at the department of
community health and general practice in Trinity College Dublin reveals.

The most alarming statistic from a public health perspective is that
21 per cent of prisoners first injected drugs in prison. And 71 per
cent of respondents reported sharing needles in prison.

The researchers found hepatitis C infection rates of 37 per cent among
prisoners. However, hepatitis B infection rates, at 9 per cent, were
lower than expected, due to the success of vaccination programmes in
the State's prisons, according to the study, which appears in this
week's British Medical Journal.

The study, funded by the Department of Justice, looked at 1,300
randomly selected prisoners from nine of the State's 16 prisons.

Drs Fiona Bradley and Lelia Thornton surveyed prisoners aged between
16 and 67 who were considered to be medium or high risk for
blood-borne viral infection.

The researchers called for the transfer of responsibility for the
prison health system from the Department of Justice to the Department
of Health. They also highlighted difficulties in recruiting prison
medical staff, with no permanent doctor attached to Mountjoy women's
prison or Cloverhill.
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