A third of prisoners at the Corradino Correctional Facility had a sexually transmitted infection, a new study has revealed. 

According to the study, carried out between 2017 and 2019 but published in this month’s journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 206 inmates tested positive for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from a total of 667 prisoners. 

More than a third of them were males aged between 14 and 72. Only 27% of them had not been sexually active in the six months prior to testing. 

Among those sexually active, 31% had had sex with casual partners while 43% had not used condoms for sexual intercourse. Three-quarters of them admitted to drug use.

The most common STI diagnosed was HPV (16.5%), followed by syphilis (5.8%). Genital dermatoses were also frequent (9.2%). The prevalence of hepatitis C was high, reaching almost 25%, in relation to intravenous drug use.

The study formed part of a process towards establishing a holistic approach to care at the prisons, with a view of introducing targeted interventions and outreach programmes. The aim was to analyse the occurrence of STIs, hepatitis and tuberculosis in inmates, to assess risk behaviours and vulnerabilities through an outreach programme, to offer treatment and referral and to develop recommendations for regular screening of prison inmates.

“Only 27% had not been sexually active in the six months before testing”

The GU Clinic’s Valeska Padovese, Katya Muscat and Mark Abela, Tanya Melillo from the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Unit and CCF’s doctor Christopher Cremona conducted the study. 

The study found there was a need for more collaboration between sexual health clinics and prison to address educational interventions and STIs’ testing. 

Commonly, inmates acquire a STI in the community prior to entering the facility. However, any inmate who engages in risky behaviour in prison is at risk of becoming infected or reinfected including through the use of non-sterile drug paraphernalia, razors, tattooing and body piercing equipment as well as consensual and non-consensual unprotected sexual activity. 

Most of the inmates, just over 87% identified themselves as heterosexual while STIs were recorded in inmates from 28 nationalities. 

Just over a quarter of women, between 15 and 50 years old, admitted to transactional sex prior to entering the prison in combination with drug use, mainly heroin and cocaine. Only six women consistently used condoms with clients. 

Two inmates were known HIV positive cases and engaged in care.

The study found that supporting prisoners to look after their own health and the health of others is an important part of rehabilitation and an important public health intervention.

 

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