South Australia introduced its - and Australia's - first Prisons Blood-Borne Virus Prevention Action Plan this week.
The joint SA Health and SA Correctional Services plan, was launched by Minister for Correctional Services, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas to coincide with the World Hepatitis Day campaign.
The Action Plan to be implemented between 2017 and 2020 aims to have all relevant services work in a coordinated effort to reduce the unacceptably high prevalence of blood-borne viruses in prisons.
Up to 40 per cent of prisoners have hepatitis C, compared to one per cent in the wider community; and three to four per cent of prisoners have hepatitis B compared to 0.89 per cent in the wider South Australian community.
Strategies in the Action Plan to increase testing include proposals for opt-out testing for blood-borne viruses and the possible introduction of rapid testing. Efforts will also be made to increase hepatitis C treatment and hepatitis B monitoring with a model of care that will see more coordinated role for the the Viral Hepatitis Nurses in providing specialist support to prison nursing staff.
An estimated 780 to 1050 South Australian prisoners live with hepatitis C. In the last six months, an impressive 150 were treated compared to about one per cent in previous years. Nonetheless there remains hundreds of others who can be treated and cured, a crucial part of preventing spread of the virus both in prison and in the community.