The Sixth National HIV Strategy

5.6 People in custodial settings

Page last updated: July 2010

Overall, HIV prevalence within the inmate population is low. However, the high turnover of inmates, the frequency of risk practices such as unsafe injecting drug use, unsafe tattooing, unprotected sex (including through sexual assault), and an over-representation of priority populations (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people who inject drugs) heighten the risk of exposure to HIV during incarceration. This is evidenced by national surveillance figures showing increases in the rates of HIV infection among new prison entrants over the past three to four years.3 Impediments to best-practice prevention and standards of care include lack of access to the means of prevention, limited skills and capacity to maintain protective practices, higher levels of co-infection with HIV and hepatitis C, and background population health issues. The over-representation of people with an intellectual disability or people who are functionally illiterate poses particular challenges for HIV prevention education in custodial settings.

People in custodial settings, including young people in detention, are a priority group under this strategy because of the risk of an increase in HIV among people in correctional facilities and the increased risk of transmission by inmates on their return to the community. The physical and mental health needs of young people in custodial settings should also be taken into account when considering education and service provision in custodial settings.


3 Butler T & Papanastasiou C, 2008, National Prison Entrants’ Bloodborne Virus and Risk Behaviour Survey Report 2004 and 2007, National Drug Research Institute (Curtin University) and the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (University of New South Wales).