The role of prisons in the HIV epidemic among female injecting drug users

  • Estébanez P
  • Zunzunegui M
  • Aguilar M
 et al. 
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The objective of this study was to describe factors associated with imprisonment of female injecting drug users (IDUs) and to assess if female IDUs who have been in prison have different HIV risk behaviours when compared to females IDUs who have never been incarcerated. A seroepidemiological survey was conducted of 304 female IDUs recruited in outreach and treatment programmes in Madrid, Spain. Data on sociodemographic characteristics and recent and lifetime risk factors, sexual and reproductive history and history of imprisonment were collected. Bivariate analysis and a logistic regression model were used to identify factors associated with imprisonment. Risk factors for imprisonment were having illegal sources of income, not having a fixed address, leaving education before finishing primary school and starting injection of drugs early in adolescence. HIV risk behaviours were highly prevalent among this population of female IDUs and drug injection in prison was reported by more than one-third of those who had ever been imprisoned. In addition, recent HIV risk behaviour indicators were not associated with imprisonment, suggesting that incarceration did not lead to risk reduction after release from prison. Female IDUs who have been in prison have substantial reproductive health problems that require gynaecological care. These results point to the urgent need for prevention programmes which address HIV and other blood-borne infections using gender specific approaches for women IDUs incarcerated in Spanish prisons.

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