Hepatitis C and B testing in English prisons is low but increasing

Patrick Kirwan, Barry Evans, Lisa Brant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background Prisons are important settings for blood-borne virus control because of the high prevalence of hepatitis C and B viral infections (HCV and HBV), and behaviours associated with transmission among prisoners. Methods Data from sentinel laboratories in England were used to identify testing for hepatitis C (anti-HCV) and hepatitis B [hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and anti-hepatitis B core antigen (HBc)] among male and female prisoners between 2005 and 2008. Results Between 2005 and 2008, 10 723 prisoners from 39 prisons in England were tested for anti-HCV, anti-HBc and/or HBsAg. Overall, 24.2 prisoners tested positive for anti-HCV. Anti-HCV testing increased 47 over 4 years (P < 0.001), whilst the proportion testing positive decreased significantly from 26 in 2005 to 23 in 2008 (χ2 10.0, df 3, P 0.030). In total, 13.9 people tested positive for anti-HBc. Of 5151 people tested for anti-HBc, 4433 were also tested for HBsAg; of these 2.4 were HBsAg positive. HBsAg testing increased 35 between 2005 and 2008, with no significant change in the proportion testing positive. Between 2005 and 2008, 2.4 (CI: 2.322.43) of the prison population (24 prisons) were estimated to have been tested for anti-HCV. Conclusions Although hepatitis testing has increased, only a small proportion of the prison population were tested. More testing is required to identify infected prisoners and refer them for appropriate treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-204
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The sentinel surveillance study was funded by the UKDH until September 2009, when it became funded by theHPA. Offender Health, DH funded the Prison Infection Prevention Team to carry out this analysis. The funding body did not have any involvement in the study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • health services
  • immunization
  • prisons


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