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Australian policy makers must act to reduce the spread of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) in prisons or we won’t be able to achieve critical public health goals like eliminating hepatitis C. This was the call in a consensus statement released by the Harm Reduction in Prisons Working Group.

The statement outlines an evidencebased approach to reducing the spread of BBVs and other injectingrelated harms in prisons. Calling on policy makers to act, Australian Alcohol and other Drugs Council (AADC) CEO and consensus statement signatory, Melanie Walker, said. “The spread of BBVs in prison settings is currently like a hole in the rabbit proof fence of our National BBV and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) Strategies and this consensus statement outlines how we can work together to fix this gaping hole.

The number and breadth of organisations represented by signatories to this consensus statement is
What we all agree on is that it’s really important that the full range of harm reduction options that are available in the broader community are mirrored in custodial settings if we are to successfully achieve public health outcomes for all.

Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW Sydney and consensus statement signatory, Professor Alison Ritter, AO, said drug use and the spread of BBVs in prisons affect everybody because people who leave prison go back into the community to their families and friends.

According to experts behind the statement, Australia has committed to eliminating hepatitis C by 2030, but right now prisons are the weakest link in the strategy to reaching this goal.

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