Background: Prisons are known to be high-risk environments for the spread of bloodborne and sexually transmitted infections. Prison officers are considered to have an intermittent exposure potential to bloodborne infectious diseases on the job, however there has been no studies on the prevalence of these infections in prison officers in Ghana.
Methods: A national multicenter cross-sectional study was undertaken on correlates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and syphilis infections in sample of prison inmates and officers from eight of ten regional central prisons in Ghana. A total of 1366 inmates and 445 officers were enrolled between May 2004 and December 2005. Subjects completed personal risk-factor questionnaire and provided blood specimens for unlinked anonymous testing for presence of antibodies to HIV, HCV and Treponema pallidum; and surface antigen of HBV (HBsAg). These data were analyzed using both univariate and multivariate techniques.
Results: Almost 18% (1336) of 7652 eligible inmates and 21% (445) of 2139 eligible officers in eight study prisons took part. Median ages of inmates and officers were 36.5 years (range 16-84) and 38.1 years (range 25-59), respectively. Among inmates, HIV seroprevalence was 5.9%, syphilis seroprevalence was 16.5%, and 25.5% had HBsAg. Among officers tested, HIV seroprevalence was 4.9%, HCV seroprevalence was 18.7%, syphilis seroprevalence was 7.9%, and 11.7% had HBsAg. Independent determinants for HIV, HBV and syphilis infections among inmates were age between 17-46, being unmarried, being illiterate, female gender, being incarcerated for longer than median time served of 36 months, history of homosexuality, history of intravenous drug use, history of sharing syringes and drug paraphernalia, history of participation in paid sexual activity, and history of sexually transmitted diseases. Independent determinants for HIV, HBV, HCV and syphilis infections among officers were age between 25-46, fale gender, being unmarried, being employed in prison service for longer than median duration of employment of 10 years, and history of sexually transmitted diseases.
Conclusion: The comparably higher prevalence of HIV, HBV, HCV and syphilis in prison inmates and officers in Ghana suggests probable occupational related transmission. The implementation of infection control practices and risk reduction programs targeted at prison inmates and officers in Ghana is urgently required to address this substantial exposure risk.