Research Article

Study of infection with HIV and related risk factors in young offenders' institution.

BMJ 1993; 307 doi: (Published 24 July 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;307:228
  1. A G Bird,
  2. S M Gore,
  3. S M Burns,
  4. J G Duggie
  1. Immunology Department, Churchill Hospital, Headington, Oxford.


    OBJECTIVES--To estimate the prevalence of infection with HIV in young offenders in Scotland and to obtain information about related risk factors and previous tests for HIV. DESIGN--Voluntary anonymous study with subjects giving saliva samples for testing for HIV and completing questionnaires about risk factors. SETTING--Polmont Young Offenders' Institution near Falkirk, Scotland. SUBJECTS--421 of 424 available male prisoners in Polmont. The questionnaires of 17 of the prisoners were excluded because of inaccuracies. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Prevalence of infection with HIV and related risk behaviour. RESULTS--68 (17%) of prisoners admitted misuse of intravenous drugs, of whom 17 (25%) admitted having injected drugs while in prison. Three subjects admitted having anal intercourse while in prison. Prevalence of misuse of intravenous drugs varied geographically: 28% (33/120) of prisoners from Glasgow compared with 9% (7/81) of those from Edinburgh and Fife. A high level of heterosexual activity was reported, with 36% (142/397) of prisoners claiming to have had six or more female sexual partners in the year before they were imprisoned. Altogether 8% (32/389) of prisoners had previously taken a personal test for HIV: 50% (9/18) of those who had started misusing intravenous drugs before 1989, 18% (9/49) of those who started misuse later, and only 4% (14/322) of those who had not misused intravenous drugs. No saliva sample tested positive for antibodies to HIV, but 96 prisoners requested a confidential personal test for HIV as a result of heightened awareness generated by the study. CONCLUSIONS--Voluntary, anonymous HIV surveys can achieve excellent compliance in prisons, and the interest generated by the study suggests that prisons may be suitable sites for providing education and drug rehabilitation for a young male population at high risk of future infection with HIV.