APH 1997, 55, 159-168:

The prevalence of infections among non-hospitalized inmates in Belgian prisons.

G. Moens, R. Haenen, F. Van Mol, J. Van Oost, A. De Schryver, and P. Jacques

Keywords: prevalence, infections, HIV, hepatitis, inmates, Belgium

To assess the prevalence of infections in non-hospitalized Belgian inmates a cross-sectional study was set up with a proportional random sample of 893 subjects (14% of all inmates) from 13 penitentiaries.  Information on the type of infection, the duration of imprisonment and other relevant variables was collected from medical records.  Severe infections among hospitalized inmates were not included in this survey.

Of the inmates 12,1% was reported to have at least one infection (95% CL: 10.0-14.2).  The most common infections were those of the lower respiratory tract (prevalence: 3.1%), infectious skin disorders (2.9%) and sexually transmitted diseases (2.2%).  Among the latter HIV seroprevalence was the most common (0.84% among males and 1.68% among females).  Clinically apparent viral hepatitis was reported in 1.6%.  The infection rate was found to be associated with age, the type of punishment, the type of prison and the use of antibacterial drugs.  An age-standardized comparison with Belgian psychiatric institutions showed significantly higher prevalences for genital infections and viral hepatitis in penitentiaries.  However, our results can only be regarded as exploratory because of the potential role of ascertainment bias.  Finally the possible implications for the protection of the prison personnel against infectious occupational hazards are discussed.