In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
HIV and Hep C Continue to Rise in Canadian Prisons

Mon, December 1, 2003
HIV continues rise in jail
Stony among worst

The number of federal inmates who have tested HIV-positive has steadily risen in the past decade, according to a local AIDS expert. There were 223 inmates who were HIV-positive as of 2001, up from 24 a dozen years earlier, said Daryn Bond of Manitoba AIDS Co-operative. The numbers, taken from a 2001 study of infectious diseases, show that injection drug use among inmates continues to be a problem, said Bond.

" We've heard stories where needles have been passed around 200 times from inmate to inmate," Bond said yesterday. "The infection rate within a men's prison for HIV and hepatitis C is 10 times that of the normal population, and it's 41 times the normal rate in women's prisons."

The problem is especially bad at Stony Mountain, which was ranked the second-worst prison in the country last year by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network when it comes to the spread of HIV and hepatitis C behind bars, said Bond.

" A judge refused to send a young offender to Stony Mountain not too long ago because of the high rate of hepatitis C and HIV within the prison population," said Bond.

Manitoba AIDS Co-operative members will be at Stony Mountain Institution this afternoon to attend a candlelight vigil marking World AIDS Day. The group will also hold a press conference at the prison to lobby the federal government to introduce needle exchange programs and make anonymous HIV-testing available to inmates.

Prisoners currently are offered bleach kits, condoms, and methadone in an effort to stop the spread of disease behind bars. Those are good initiatives, said Bond, but more needs to be done.

"We know bleach isn't foolproof when it comes to stopping the spread of HIV, and it's not effective at all in protecting against hepatitis C," he said.

Related report and info: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network