Core topics




In many countries, including Canada, HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infection is significantly more prevalent among people in prison than among the population as a whole. In part, this is because people from communities that are already disproportionately affected by HIV — including people who use drugs — also face disproportionate rates of incarceration. But it’s also because people in prison often don’t have access to the same health services available to people outside prison — a violation of human rights.

Depending on the setting, the lack of opioid substitution therapy (e.g. methadone), condom distribution, sterile injection equipment and other harm reduction measures are all factors driving the HIV epidemic in prisons. Infections acquired in prison ultimately result in greater public health costs. And, since most prisoners are eventually released back into the community, harm to the health of those in prison also harms public health more broadly.

We work with a range of partners, in Canada and internationally, to improve access in prisons to:

  • voluntary and confidential HIV testing;
  • services to reduce HIV and other harms (e.g. condom and lubricant distribution, safer tattooing programs, drug dependence treatment, needle and syringe programs); and
  • uninterrupted antiretroviral treatment and other medical care.
Learn more:

Women and HIV – “Women in Prison, HIV and Hepatitis C”

This is one in a series of four info sheets on the human rights of women living with or vulnerable to HIV in Canada.

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Prison needle and syringe programs: policy brief

This document presents evidence and recommendations in support of implementing prison-based needle and syringe programs in Canada.

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Under the Skin: A People’s Case for Prison Needle and Syringe Programs

What do people in prison have to say about the Canadian government’s unwillingness to permit the distribution of clean needles in prison? Between 2008 and 2009, interviews were conducted in person and over the phone in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, resulting in sworn affidavits or testimonials from 50 […]

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Clean Switch: The Case for Prison Needle and Syringe Programs in Canada

Harm reduction measures aimed at preventing HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission in prisons are neither new nor groundbreaking in Canada. Prison systems have implemented, to varying degrees, forms of harm reduction such as condoms, bleach and methadone maintenance treatment. However, as of September 2008, no Canadian jurisdiction had established a prison-based needle and […]

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Hard Time: HIV and Hepatitis C Prevention Programming for Prisoners in Canada

The goal of this report is to encourage and aid prison systems, other sectors of government, non-governmental and community organizations, and prisoners themselves in responding to the challenges of HIV and HCV, particularly with respect to prevention. This report is intended to fulfill this goal by increasing: knowledge and understanding of legal and human rights […]

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