Blood borne virus strategy for AMC

Released 15/08/2012

ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher MLA today released a draft blood borne virus (BBV) management strategy for corrections, which will help protect the health of the whole community.

"By halting the spread of blood borne viruses in the AMC we stop them spreading further in the community when prisoners are released and go back to their family and friends," the Chief Minister said.

"Stopping blood borne viruses spreading in the AMC ensures the health services we have in the wider community are consistently applied."

The strategy covers educating prisoners about the spread of blood borne viruses, steps to cut off the supply of drugs in the prison, treatment and screening, and provides access to needle and syringe programs, which have been proven to be successful in the wider community, on a trial basis.

"After many meetings and discussions with staff, unions and non-government organisations I have formed the view that a full needle and syringe exchange program, as outlined in various options in the Moore Report, would not be able to be practically implemented at the AMC at this time.

"However, I do believe that it is worthwhile examining a model which has been put to me by doctors which addresses access to clean injecting equipment if considered clinically appropriate.

"The model, known as "one-for-one" medical model would see the doctors, not politicians, as the decision makers.

"The next step is to convene an implementation group to provide advice on how this model could be implemented."

An implementation group representing staff at the AMC and health and corrections officials will develop a complete plan to introduce a needle exchange trial, taking into account the safety of staff and inmates.

"It is a reality facing prisons the world over that some drugs and injecting equipment are inevitably smuggled in, despite the best efforts of staff to keep them out. Controlling this is just one aspect of managing blood borne viruses. Education, testing and needle exchange have also been shown to be effective components of a comprehensive strategy," the Chief Minister concluded.

The strategic framework is designed to stop blood borne viruses such as hepatitis C spreading in the AMC. There have been nine documented cases of in custody transmission of hepatitis C at the AMC since it opened.

The strategy includes:

  • access to information and education about how to prevent and manage BBVs, including treatment of existing infections;
  • opportunities for BBV screening and vaccinations for those coming into the AMC and at regular intervals during their stay in the AMC;
  • comprehensive education and training for all AMC staff on BBV transmission and support for those infected;
  • infection control procedures and relevant staff education and training about infection control measures in relation to BBVs;
  • regulated access to sterile injecting equipment;
  • detainee ready access to full-strength household bleach and disinfectant and education about their use;
  • detainee access to their own razors, toothbrushes and the adoption and application of infection control procedures for barbering equipment;
  • access to prophylactics, including condoms;
  • processes and procedures in place to provide post exposure prophylaxis against BBVs;
  • education and counselling related to injecting drug use; and
  • drug treatment programs.

The ACT Government has today also released its response to the Moore Report (Balancing access and safety: Meeting the Challenge of Blood-Borne Viruses in Prison) and an update on the Burnet Report (External component of the evaluation of drug policies and services and their subsequent effects on prisoners and staff within the Alexander Maconochie Centre).

- Statement ends -

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