Sexual Attitudes and the Spread of Disease: Risk in jails from sharing of needles: Liz Hunt in Amsterdam reports from the eighth International Conference on Aids, which was told of a fresh threat to life

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AROUND 60 prisoners in British jails become infected with HIV, the Aids virus, each year through needle-sharing, according to a study, writes Liz Hunt.

On average, nine prisoners are sharing one needle, and they spend around 30 weeks in jail. Kate Dolan, from the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour at London University, said that, at worst, more than 900 prisoners could become infected each year.

Bleach for cleaning needles should be given to inmates who regularly inject drugs to prevent HIV infection, she told the international conference on Aids. Intravenous drug-users should also be 'diverted' from the prison population. There are 100,000 HIV drug-users in England and Wales; 17,000 of them had been in prison. One quarter of this group said that they injected their drugs and three-quarters said that they shared needles.

A lack of privacy and overcrowding were conducive to high-risk behaviour in prisons, Dr Dolan added.

In another study, Helen Ward, an epidemiologist from St Mary's hospital, London, said that prostitutes were more at risk of sexually-transmitted diseases from their boyfriends and partners than from clients. Condom use for business purposes was very common but with their partners it was less frequent.

Women who worked privately on referral rather than on the street were more likely to have unprotected sex with clients.