Hepatitis C transmission and HIV post-exposure prophylaxis after needle- and syringe-sharing in Australian prisons

Belinda G. O'Sullivan, Michael H. Levy, Kate A. Dolan, Jeffrey J. Post, Sharon G. Barton, Dominic E. Dwyer, John M. Kaldor, Andrew E. Grulich

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Objectives: To determine whether infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) occurred after two potential episodes of exposure through needle- and syringe-sharing in Australian prisons, and to examine use of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) against HIV infection in the prison setting. Design: Cohort study of potential contacts of two prisoners infected with HIV, HBV and HCV followed up for up to 14 months. Setting: Two Australian prisons between November 2000 (time of exposure) and December 2001. Participants: Two index patients (both infected with HIV and HCV; one also infectious for HBV) from two different prisons, and 104 inmates who shared needles and syringes. Main outcome measures: Seroconversions to HIV, HBV and HCV related to the high-risk exposure and uptake and completion of HIV PEP determined from medical records of inmates. Results: There were four seroconversions to HCV within 14 months of the potential exposure (14% of those susceptible in the cohort), but no recorded HIV or HBV seroconversions. Forty-six inmates (82% of those eligible) were offered PEP, and 34 of these (74%) elected to receive it. Only eight (24% of the 34) completed the full PEP course. Conclusions: HCV transmission in the prison setting is related to high-risk needle- and syringe-sharing. Administering HIV PEP in the prison setting is complicated by challenging risk assessment and follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-549
Number of pages4
JournalThe Medical Journal of Australia
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

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