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HIV, hepatitis rates high in R.I. prisons

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Inmates entering prisons in Rhode Island had higher rates of HIV and hepatitis than found in the general U.S. population, a Brown University report said.

Researchers found 2 percent of incoming inmates tested positive for HIV, 20 percent for hepatitis B and another 23 percent for hepatitis C.

The general U.S. population has rates of one-third of a percent for HIV infection, 5 percent for hepatitis B and 2 percent for hepatitis C.

Although the study found none of the inmates contracted HIV while in prison, and only 1 percent contracted hepatitis C, hepatitis B spread at a much higher rate, with 3 percent of inmates contracting the disease in just a year's time -- far higher than the national average.

The researchers said the transmission of hepatitis B -- which attacks the liver and causes cirrhosis, cancer and even death -- is preventable and they recommended vaccinating all prisoners.

A recent U.S. survey found only two prison facilities in the country give routine hepatitis B vaccinations.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International


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