Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons from a Comprehensive Review of International Evidence and Experience

As the number of prisoners living with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis C continues to rise, a new report concludes that prison needle exchange programs effectively reduce the individual and social damage associated with drug use.

Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons from a Comprehensive Review of International Evidence and Experience, by IHRD grantee Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, is the first worldwide survey of its kind. It found that in six countries where prison needle exchange programs exist (Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus) the following results occurred:

  • Reduced incidence of risky behavior and of disease (including HIV and HCV) transmission;
  • Increased staff and prisoner safety;
  • A lack of increase in drug consumption or injection;
  • Successful use of different methods of needle distribution to meet the needs of staff and prisoners in a wide range of prisons.

The report calls upon prison systems and health ministries in countries lacking prison needle exchange programs to start pilot studies of such programs, in order to protect prisoners, prison staff, and the public from the risk of blood-borne infections.