Sexual Health

In the UK, people in prison are more likely to be HIV positive than their counterparts on the outside. Get involved in our campaign to increase the provision of adequate resources and information relating to sexual health and harm reduction for incarcerated people.

There are many reasons for these higher HIV prevalence rates which extend beyond prison walls and are linked to a punitive societal approach to drug use, the strain placed on sexual health services in an underfunded NHS, and the combined factors of oppression and marginalisation. 

Criminalised people and populations are often placed at higher risk before entering prison – people who use drugs intravenously are often not able to access harm reduction resources such as clean needles and safe spaces to inject. The criminalisation of drug use increases the likelihood of risky practices such as needle sharing. Within prison people are also made more vulnerable than the general population by factors such as the sharing of needles for drug use and unprotected sex. 

We are campaigning for the following:

  • Increased access to condoms in prisons, dental dams and lube, making sure that they can be accessed anonymously

Condom provision in UK prisons is patchy at best, with condom provision banned in Northern Ireland and limited elsewhere. Many people in prison report that in order to access condoms they have to out themselves and their partners in an unsafe environment. Condoms, dental dams, and lube need to be available anonymously to all people who need them.

  • Access to needle exchange programmes and related harm reduction information and resources

Needle exchange programmes are cost effective ways of dealing with the harms associated with intravenous drug use. Needle exchange programmes, alongside harm reduction information, should be available anonymously and confidentially to all.

  • Access to PEP and PrEP

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) can reduce the chances of a HIV negative person becoming HIV positive after being exposed to the virus. In the UK, PEP needs to be prescribed by a healthcare professional. In prison, there are many barriers to accessing healthcare. PEP needs to be available for all who need it.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) allows people to take HIV medication daily or before potential exposure in order to stop people becoming HIV positive. At the moment, PrEP has limited availability across the UK, and particularly in prisons, despite the fact that incarcerated people have a higher HIV precedence rate.

PEP and PrEP need to be available, accessible, and free for all who need it, especially those on the inside. We need to ensure that all prisons, young offenders, detention centres, provide adequate information about PEP and PrEP to ensure that people are kept safe and well.

  • An end to widespread mandatory drugs testing

Mandatory drugs testing is ineffective at reducing drug use – drug use is sky high in prisons despite the extreme surveillance and control. Mandatory drugs testing creates a climate of mistrust which means incarcerated people who do need help with a drug problem do not feel able to seek support. Mandatory drugs testing can also make drug use more harmful – providing an incentive for people to use more harmful drugs that are less likely to turn up on drugs tests. The vast resource that we spend on mandatory drugs testing would be better spent on providing accessible harm reduction information and advice to ensure that people can be safe and well.

  • Optional HIV testing upon entry onto the estate, and regularly after that

Optional HIV testing should be made available to everyone on entry to the prison system as well as at regular, 3 monthly, intervals after that. We cannot assume that people in prison are not going to be having sex or doing drugs – we need sexual health and HIV testing to ensure everyone can receive the support and healthcare they need.

Support our campaign – send a postcard to your MP now

The first stage of our campaign is to get everyone, on the inside and out, to send a postcard with the above demands to their MPs. You can order your postcards by emailing booksbeyondbarsuk@gmail.com Please let us know if you receive a response either by emailing us or using the hashtag #PrEPinPrison