Nearly one in three inmates entering Maryland’s prisons is infected with HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, the Washington Post reports. Prisoners’ infection rates were dramatically higher than the general population’s, based on blood tests of 3,914 people entering the state penal system during a 60-day period last year.
The most prevalent infection in Maryland state prisons was hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver disease, including cancer and cirrhosis, and other serious complications. The problem has major public health implications beyond prison walls because inmates eventually are released into the community, where they can spread the infections.
Maryland inmates are treated for syphilis and HIV, but the prisons do not routinely give hepatitis B vaccinations, which are highly effective, to inmates or staff members.
Corrections officers have sought legislation that would make it easier to collect workers’ compensation for infections acquired on the job, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.