Inmates remain at risk for HIV and HCV after release from prison

Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382

Reentry into society after serving time in prison is no easy task. Former inmates must deal with finding housing, employment, and health care, plus re-establish a social support network. Such challenges may put them at increased risk for acquiring HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, suggests a new study. It found that in their post-release period, these individuals had several risk factors for HIV and HCV infection, such as unprotected sex, sex for pay, and drug use. If they already had HIV or HCV infection, these former inmates faced barriers to getting the care and medications they needed.

The researchers interviewed 20 male and 9 female former inmates 18 years of age and older. The average age was 39. All were recruited for this study within 2 months of release from prison. Open-ended questions were used to determine their current drug and alcohol use, safety and health threats, engagement in unprotected sex, and health-care-related issues. Although no one was asked about their HIV or HCV status, seven individuals admitted to having HCV and one to having HIV. It was common for the former inmates to report about their risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, unprotected sex, and injection drug use. Many engaged in such behaviors in the first few days upon release, including engaging in sex for money. There were a number of misconceptions about HIV and HCV expressed by the participants, such as being protected if your partner is on birth control. Finally, the participants shared numerous challenges when it came to reducing risks, accessing health care, and obtaining necessary medications. These included long wait times, the lack of health insurance, and access to condoms and clean needles.

The study authors call for additional prevention efforts and improved coordination to help newly released prisoners prevent HIV and HCV infection and obtain much-needed health care services. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS19464).

See "HIV risk after release from prison: a qualitative study of former inmates," by Jennifer Adams, M.D., Carolyn Nowels, M.S.P.H., Karen Corsi, Sc.D., M.P.H., and others in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 57(5), pp. 429-434, 2011.

Page last reviewed June 2012
Internet Citation: Inmates remain at risk for HIV and HCV after release from prison: Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382. June 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.