Prison HIV outbreak may hit 50

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The Independent Online
Prisoners at a Scottish jail who contracted HIV in Britain's worst known Aids epidemic may have infected up to 50 people, according to medical experts.

The epidemic at Glenochil prison, near Alloa in central Scotland, which infected 13 people in 1993 after convicts started sharing needles for injecting drugs, may be three times as bad as previously believed.

The virus is likely to have spread beyond the walls of the jail following the routine transfers and the release of infected prisoners, a World in Action documentary will reveal tomorrow.

Dr Graham Bird, a consultant immunologist at the Oxford Radcliffe Trust, believes a second wave of infections to be "entirely possible, knowing what we do about drug use within prisons and not just about Glenochil but other prisons too."

The programme highlights how wives and girlfriends have been infected. One woman was infected by her lover who decided not to tell her he had the virus. "The biggest regret is that I actually passed the virus on to somebody else," her lover says. "I have taken her life."

Another woman tells how she had an abortion after becoming pregnant by her HIV-carrying husband on a home visit. An HIV test six weeks later proved negative. "The time when I was actually due to have the baby, I ended up in the hospital with an overdose," she tells viewers.

Dr Sheila Gore, senior statistician at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, said mandatory drug testing could lead to a rise in the number of Aids cases as prisoners inject hard drugs such as heroin, which pass through the body quicker than soft drugs like cannabis.

The infection of the 13 prisoners was uncovered in 1993 after a team from Glasgow's Ruchill Infectious Diseases Hospital carried out tests following an outbreak of hepatitis and some HIV cases in the prison.