On 28th July Prisoners Abroad is marking World Hepatitis Day, drawing attention to this often debilitating disease which affects millions globally.
Hepatitis is the viral inflammation of the liver, often transmitted through blood contact. Although many people live with the disease worldwide, hepatitis is a particular problem within prisons. In the USA, for example, only 1% of the general population has some form of hepatitis, yet 17% prisoners have been diagnosed with the disease. As many prisoners have never been tested, the true rate is likely to be even higher, with estimates of up to 1 in 3 infected.
The prevalence of hepatitis in prison, particularly hepatitis C, is linked to its transmission through unsterile needles. Prisoners often share needles for drug use, piercing or tattooing, putting them at high risk of infection if these are contaminated with the blood of a hepatitis sufferer. Contact with infected blood through an open wound or sexual contact can also lead to infection.
The problem of hepatitis in prisons is often made worse by lack of medical attention given to sufferers. Although it can be cured in early stages, high drug costs in the USA mean that the disease is largely ignored, with only 1% sufferers receiving medical care. As a result, prisoners with hepatitis remain at risk of developing serious liver problems or infecting others—meaning even more danger for prisoners and even higher costs for the state.
British prisoners overseas are at high risk of hepatitis, not only in developing countries but even in countries like the USA—as the above evidence shows. Hepatitis affects Prisoners Abroad’s beneficiaries: 14 British citizens currently receiving our services suffer from the disease in some form. It is likely that more are either undiagnosed sufferers, or did not feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis to us due to stigma, risk of prison officials finding out, or for other reasons.
Prisoners Abroad believes that nobody should be at risk of contracting serious disease or be denied healthcare—whatever their crime. We help prisoners survive their incarceration with grants for medical care and emergency treatment, maintain their physical health with vitamins and food, and care for their mental health by fighting social isolation.
“Without Prisoners Abroad’s help I wouldn’t be able to afford the medical and dental treatment. I owe them so much!”—A prisoner in Japan
Supporters like you make our life-saving work possible. Giving as little as £5 monthly for a year could help pay towards vital surgery, as we did for a British prisoner in Peru recently. Donate today to support someone in similar need.
To read more about hepatitis and join the fight against stigma and disease, you can also get involved in the World Hepatitis Day campaign.