Pubdate: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Greg Bonnell, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


TORONTO -- The alarming prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C infection
among inmates is a health issue that affects all Canadians and
requires the country's prisons to immediately adopt needle-exchange
programs, advocacy groups said yesterday.

"These are transmissible diseases which are being spread within the
prison and have the potential to spread when people come out of the
prison," said Dr. Peter Ford of the Ontario Medical Association.
"There's a multiplication effect here. This is a public health issue."

Programs to prevent the spread of disease in federal and provincial
institutions aren't working, and the absence of exchange programs only
leads to inmates sharing dirty, infected needles, the association said.

Almost one in 50 federal inmates has HIV/AIDS -- a rate 10 times
higher than the general population. The numbers for hepatitis C are
even worse, with almost one-quarter of prisoners testing positive.

"We are dealing with levels of illness and infection which are really
quite startling," said Ford. Compounding the problem is that once
prisoners are released, many return to the community "unaware that
they're infected with the potential to spread the infection."
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