Objective: To determine HIV prevalence among male prison inmates in the six OECS countries in the Caribbean.
Subjects and Methods: Six unlinked, anonymous point prevalence surveys of a total of 1288 male inmates were conducted during a one-year period, August 2004 – August 2005. An oral fluid sample was collected and an interviewer-administered questionnaire and consent form was completed for each survey participant.
Results: The overall HIV prevalence was 2.8% (range 2.0% – 4.1%). Only 39% of all inmates had previously been tested, compared to 67% of the HIV-positive inmates. Of all inmates who previously tested, 61% had their last test less than two years ago, 45% had done so while in prison and 39% had done so in a hospital. Most of those who had not previously been tested had no particular reason for not doing so (57%); 24% of them felt it was not necessary or they were not at risk.
Conclusion: HIV prevalence among male prison inmates was three times higher than the estimated OECS population prevalence in 2003, slightly higher than the prevalence among incarcerated males in the United States of America and Canada, and lower than that in other Caribbean countries in earlier years. Health information on prison populations is important as this is a vulnerable group, with frequent movement in and out of the general population. Preventative services, voluntary counselling and testing, and appropriate care and treatment should be available to all inmates as this is an opportunity for many who may not otherwise access these services.