Anonymous survey on infectious diseases and related risk behaviour among Armenian prisoners and prison staff

Caren Weilandt (WIAD, Scientific Institute of the German Medical Association)
Heion Stöver (University of Bremen, Germany)
Josef Eckert (WIAD, Scientific Institute of the German Medical Association)
Gregor Grigoryan (Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Publication date: 1 January 2007


The prevalence of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV in a representative sample of the Armenian male adult prison population has been determined and prisoners and staff were anonymously asked on risk behaviours (542 prisoners) and on knowledge, attitude and behaviour towards infectious diseases (348 staff members) Prisoners’ knowledge about the sources of transmission of HIV is quite poor, most of the wrong answers relate to activities in the daily prison life. The acceptance of HIV‐infected inmates tends towards extremely negative attitudes. The reported rate of intravenous drug use was 13.3%, and 51% among those are current injectors. Of the ‘ever injectors’, between 15% and 30% reported high‐risk behaviour. Of particular interest was the fact that the self‐reported HIV test results did not correlate at all with the results of the saliva tests. In the study the prevalence of HIV was 2.4%, a rate which is 27 times higher than in the general population. The prevalence rate for hepatitis B among prisoners is 3.7% and for hepatitis C 23.8%. The most important risk factor for contracting an HCV infection was drug use and the second, time spent in prison within the last 10 years, which is an independent risk factor. A substantial number of prison employees perceive their working condition as risky and themselves as at risk for TB, hepatitis B/C or HIV, but large groups had no idea about infection rates. Regarding HIV and hepatitis, knowledge is poor and patchy. While staff show quite good knowledge regarding the main transmission routes via blood and unprotected sex, a low level of knowledge becomes obvious when considering everyday‐life situations, which may cause fears in such a closed setting like prison. Standards including confidentiality and non‐segregation are not accepted in respect of HIV positive prisoners. Here, attitudes range between ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’, which might express uncertainty and insecurity about the risks HIV‐positive persons carry. The provision of sterile needles for tattooing and sterile syringes and needles for injecting drugs users to prevent the spread of infectious diseases are not agreed by the majority of prison staff.



Weilandt, C., Stöver, H., Eckert, J. and Grigoryan, G. (2007), "Anonymous survey on infectious diseases and related risk behaviour among Armenian prisoners and prison staff", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 17-28.

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