- 1Tropical Public Health Services, Cairns, Queensland.
- 2College of Health Care Sciences, James Cook University, Queensland.
- 3Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Queensland.
- 4Cairns Sexual Health Service, Queensland.
Objective: The prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in correctional facilities in Australia among people who inject drugs is 60%, with disproportionate effects observed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Following the micro-elimination of HCV in a Queensland correctional facility (QCF), newly acquired cases began to increase in mid-2019. Here we discuss the public health response to increasing HCV in a QCF.
Methods: Enhanced surveillance was performed to obtain contextual outbreak data on risk factors including injecting drug use, sharing of personal hygiene equipment and do-it-yourself-tattooing.
Results: In the sixteen months, there were 250 notifications of new and re-infected HCV infections in prisoners in the QCF. Qualitative data revealed the leading factor in transmission to be injecting drug use.
Conclusions: Drivers for increased HCV transmission in correctional facilities include boredom, waiting lists for opioid substitution programs, changes in injecting behaviours and sharing of injecting paraphernalia. Point-of-care testing combined with education and the development of a needle and syringe program may be promising ways forward for managing HCV in correctional facilities.
Implications for public health: Correctional facilities are key locations to target sexually transmitted infection (STI) and blood-borne virus (BBV) testing and treatment as well as health promotion to improve the health of inmates and the communities they return to.