Background and Aims: Hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are common infections among prisoners. Addicted prisoners are at a higher risk than the normal population for contracting these diseases. Many studies have reported higher prevalence rates of HBV, HCV, and HIV in prisoners. Because of this problem, this study was conducted to evaluate the serologic prevalence of these three diseases in prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes.
Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted on a random sample of prisoners with drug charges who were inmates in a prison in Birjand, Iran. Information was collected via questionnaire after obtaining prisoners' informed consent and blood samples were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV), and antibodies to HIV (anti-HIV). The results were analyzed by chi-square tests.
Results: In this study, 358 prisoners were selected. 80.2% of prisoners were male, and 19.8% were female. The average age was 34.7±12 years. 39.1% were addicted to drugs, 54.2% were smokers, and 19.3% had tattoos. 8.4% had had extramarital intercourse, and 16.8% had had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in past. HBsAg, anti-HCV, and anti-HIV prevalence in these samples were 6.1%, 8.1%, and 0%, respectively. The prevalence rate of HBV in the addicted prisoners was 4.3%, and the rate in non-addicted prisoners was 7.3% (P = 0.24). The prevalence of HCV in addicted prisoners was 15.7%, and the prevalence in non-addicted prisoners was 3.2%; this difference was significant (P < 0.001). Furthermore, a significant difference between the prevalence of HBV and extramarital intercourse was noted (P < 0.005). A significant difference between HCV and transfusion, history of STDs, addiction, and tattooing was noted.
Conclusions: The survey showed that HCV, HBV, and HIV prevalence rates in prisoners were 8.1%, 6.1%, 0%, respectively. The prevalence rates of HCV and HBV in addicted prisoners were 15.7% and 4.3 %, respectively. Studies performed in Iran and other countries have shown that the prevalence rates of HBV, HCV, and HIV in addicted prisoners were higher than the rates in non-addicted prisoners. These results indicate that HBV, HCV, and HIV are significant problems in prisons, and efforts to reduce the risk of these infections, such as education and vaccination, should be considered.