Establishment of a successful assessment and treatment service for Australian prison inmates with chronic hepatitis C

Leng Boonwaat, Paul S Haber, Michael H Levy and Andrew R Lloyd
Med J Aust 2010; 192 (9): 496-500.


Objective: To evaluate the assessment and treatment outcomes of a prison hepatitis service.

Design and setting: A retrospective, observational cohort study of prison inmates who attended hepatitis clinics from 1996 to 2005 at correctional centres in New South Wales.

Patients: Inmates who attended the clinics, including a nested case–control series of patients who received antiviral treatment and age- and sex-matched patients who did not receive treatment.

Main outcome measures: Demographic and clinical characteristics of patients who attended the service; correlates of selection for antiviral treatment; and clinical and virological outcomes of treatment.

Results: Of the 1043 inmates who attended the clinics, 851 were men (82%) and 994 (95%) were referred for HCV infection; the mean age for this group was 33 years (range, 18–74 years). In the case–control series (185 treated and 186 untreated patients), selection for treatment was not biased by culturally and linguistically diverse background, current methadone treatment or psychiatric status. In the treated group, 76 of 138 genotyped patients had a genotype that is predictive of favourable treatment response, and a small minority of those with available liver biopsy results had established cirrhosis (7/119 patients). Of treated patients for whom complete follow-up data were available, 55% achieved sustained virological response and 100% adhered to therapy. In addition, treatment episodes were not especially complicated.

Conclusion: Although the prison population has high rates of injecting drug use and poor mental health, imprisonment offers an opportunity for assessment and treatment of chronic HCV infection.

  • Leng Boonwaat1
  • Paul S Haber2,3
  • Michael H Levy4
  • Andrew R Lloyd5,3

  • 1 Blood Borne Viruses and Sexual Assault Services, Population Health, Justice Health, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Drug Health Services, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Hepatitis Service, Justice Health, New South Wales Department of Health, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Corrections Health, Canberra, ACT.
  • 5 Centre for Infection and Inflammation Research, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.



The study was funded in part by a grant from the NSW Department of Health. The commitment of Justice Health to the establishment and ongoing support for the Hepatitis Service is gratefully acknowledged. The additional members of the Justice Health Hepatitis Service who contributed to this study are: Robert Batey (Hepatologist); Jac Clegg (Clinical Nurse Consultant); Jenny Douglas (Clinical Nurse Consultant); Mark Douglas (Infectious Diseases Physician); Bruce McGarity (Gastroenterologist); Nghi Phung (Hepatologist); Jeffrey Post (Infectious Diseases Physician); Martin Weltman (Hepatologist); and John Quin (Immunologist).

Competing interests:

None identified.

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