Infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis are major problems in prisons worldwide, a Johns Hopkins study has found.
The study’s authors looked at a decade’s worth of research about prisoners and infectious disease, as well as data from the prison systems in 17 countries across the globe. They found that the prevalence of infectious diseases is higher in prison populations–something that’s not surprising, considering the criminalization of IV drugs which are a common vector for these diseases. Inconsistent medical services and overcrowding, infections tend to spread in prisons. And when those former inmates are released, they can contribute to the spread of such diseases in the population at large.
“The most effective way of controlling these infections in prisoners and the broader community is to reduce the incarceration of people who inject drugs,” the study authors concluded.
The research findings may have local implications as well: “By having disparity in imprisonment in the city, are we increasing peoples’ risk of HIV and other infectious diseases?” study co-author Andrea Wirtz told the Baltimore Sun. “We can say this is part of the bigger picture of the HIV epidemic.”