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A multicentre interventional study to assess blood-borne viral infections in Belgian prisons

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Background: Prevalence data on viral hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and HIV infection in prison are often scarce or outdated. There is currently no systematic screening for these blood-borne viral infections (BBV) in Belgian prisons. There is an urgency to assess the prevalence of these BBV to inform policymakers and public healthcare.Methods: This was a multicentre, interventional study to assess the prevalence of BBV using opt-in screening in prisons across Belgium, April 2019 - March 2020. Prisoners were tested using a finger prick and BBV risk factors were assessed using a questionnaire. A generalized linear mixed model was used to investigate the association between the various risk factors and HCV.Results: In total, 886 prisoners from 11 Belgian prisons were screened. Study uptake ranged from 16.9 to 35.4% in long-term facilities. The prevalence of HCV antibodies (Ab), hepatitis B surface antigen (Ag) and HIV Ab/Ag was 5.0% (44/886), 0.8% (7/886), and 0.2% (2/886). The adjusted odds for HCV Ab were highest in prisoners who ever injected (p < 0.001; AOR 24.6 CI 95% (5.5-215.2). The prevalence of detectable HCV RNA in the total cohort was 2.1% (19/886). Thirteen (68.4%) prisoners were redirected for follow-up of their HCV infection.Conclusions: Opt-in testing for viral hepatitis B, C and HIV was relatively well-accepted in prisons. Compared with the general population, prisoners have a higher prevalence of infection with BBV, especially for HCV. Systematic screening for these BBV should be recommended in all prisons, preferably using opt-out to optimize screening uptake.
Journal: BMC Infectious Diseases
Issue: 1
Volume: 21
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Prison, Paramedicine