Australia could soon attract international scrutiny over its failure to adopt important harm minimisation strategies such as condom distribution and needle exchanges in prisons according to a letter published in the October 1 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.
Australia is poised to adopt the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and when it does, its commitment to health-related strategies will be “judged harshly”, according to Professor Michael Levy from the College of Medicine, Biology and Environment at the Australian National University and Professor Carla Treloar, Deputy Director of the National Centre in HIV Social Research at the University of New South Wales.
The authors sought information from the eight state and territory-based prisoner health services to assess how health-related harm minimisation strategies were being implemented in each jurisdiction. They wrote that they had found the rollout had been inconsistent and slow, particularly in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The authors did applaud the introduction of drug therapy for opioid addiction in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania and a trial of condom distribution in four Victorian prisons, but they noted this trial had yet to be expanded.
They wrote that there had also been unconfirmed reports of “self regulated” tattoo parlours in at least one NSW prison; however, they noted that regulated exchange of injecting equipment had not been achieved.
They also noted that the ACT Government was implementing a comprehensive strategy to manage bloodborne viruses at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
“This would be the first substantive response by any jurisdiction to a 2008 national commitment of health and custodial authorities”, they wrote.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.