National Prison Entrants' Bloodborne Virus and Risk Behaviour Survey Report 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016

Prisoner populations are characterised by engagement in risk behaviours, most notably injecting drug use. Consequently they are at an increased risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Previous Australian research has shown that hepatitis C is between thirty to forty times higher among prisoners compared with the general community. Surveillance of this population is important to monitor trends in the prevalence of blood-borne viruses and changes over time in risk behaviours. This is the fifth NPEBBVS conducted thus far; others have been undertaken triennially since 2004. 

Key findings
  • The final sample consisted of 431 participants. The overall response rate to the survey was 50%.
  • No cases of HIV were detected among those prisoners screened in 2016.
  • Rates of sexually transmissible infections were no higher than in the general population – chlamydia (4% of men, 7% of women), and gonorrhoea (2% of men, no women). For syphilis, around 4% of men and 17% of women had markers consistent with past or present infection. While 16% of all those tested had markers indicating possible current infection with syphilis, only 6 individuals (4 men and 2 woman) had serological markers suggesting possible current infection.
  • Less than half of those screened in 2016 reported they had ever injected drugs (46%), which is similar to 2013 (45%). Of those with a history of injecting, 63% had injected in the past month.
  • Tobacco smoking remains alarmingly high among with 87% of prisoners reporting they are current smokers. This is a slight reduction from 2013 (90%). A higher proportion of people who inject drugs were current tobacco smokers (90%) compared with those who had never injected drugs (84%).