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Arch Hellen Med, 38(3), May-June 2021, 321-328


Drug use and infectious diseases in Greek prisons

M. Alexandrou,1 S. Bounti,2 S. Roussos,3 V. Sypsa3
1School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens,
2"Aghios Panteleimon" General Hospital of Nikaia, Pireus,
3Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Worldwide, incarcerated populations present a higher burden of infectious diseases compared with the general population, with people who inject drugs (PWID) being overrepresented in prison populations. In the period 2012– 2013, a history of imprisonment was reported by 50.5% of male and 39.2% of female PWID in Athens, Greece. From data collected during the period 1994–2018 in Greek prisons, it is apparent that PWID tend to stop injecting drugs during their incarceration, but, among those who continue, the prevalence of sharing syringes is high (64.9–91.5%). The prevalence of hepatitis C (HCV) was found to be high (83.5%) among imprisoned PWID in the largest prison in Greece in 2017–2018. An outbreak of human immunovirus (HIV) among PWID in 2011–2013 in Athens resulted in an increase in the number of prisoners infected with HIV, but also tuberculosis. The high burden of infectious diseases, the large proportion of incarcerated PWID and the prevalence of high-risk injection behaviour in prisons make it necessary to introduce screening of prisoners for infectious diseases. Relevant data should be collected in a systematic way, in order to assess needs and apply targeted interventions for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in the prison setting.

Key words: Drug abuse, Hepatitis C, HIV infection, Prisons, Tuberculosis.

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