The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

5137.0: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 12:40 PM

Abstract #68133

Facing the New Menace: Medical, Legal, Social and Ethical Issues in Treating Hepatitis C Infection among the Female Incarcerated Population

Jennifer S. Bard, JD/MPH, Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555-1311, 409-772-9394,

“Hepatitis C Infection (“HCV”) is the most common blood borne infection in the United States. The prevalence of HCV infection among US prisoners is at least ten-fold higher than that in the general population and for women prisoners, who are often incarcerated for crimes related to sex and/or drugs, the rate of HCV is even higher than in men,” (HEPP Report, vol. 5, Aug./Sept. 2002). The CDC recently issued guidelines for treatment of HCV in the prison population. The recommended anti-retroviral treatment is expensive and complex. There are substantial ethical issues inherent in decisions to treat HCV. Because of lack of resources allocated to for HCV, most prisons do not screen for HCV even though their populations are at high risk. When HCV is discovered, physicians often decide not to begin treatment if the inmate’s sentence is not long enough for a full course of drug therapy. This is particularly discriminatory to women who often have shorter sentences than men.

HCV has been found to increase rates of neurological impairment causing memory lapses, thought disorders, and mood disorders. Given the already high rate of depression and PTSD among incarcerated women, there is an intense need to include often lacking mental health treatment. Women’s health advocates must have a clear understanding of the special vulnerability of women inmates to HCV and must support policy on a state and national level to provide adequate treatment.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Access and Services, Correctional Health Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Health of Incarcerated Women

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA