Reducing Viral Hepatitis Transmission In Persons Experiencing Incarceration Through Education And Peer-Based Interventions

Author: Amanda Altman

Theme: Epidemiology & Public Health Research Year: 2017

Background: The CDC estimates that chronic HBV prevalence is up to 6 times higher in prison
populations compared to the national average and chronic HCV prevalence in the US prison population
is estimated to be up to 35%, versus a national prevalence of only 1.3%. The Hepatitis Education Project
(HEP) has been conducting hepatitis education in the Washington state prison system since 2001 and
added male and female peer education intervention classes in 2015.
Methods: HEP works with the Washington State Department of Corrections by contract to conduct viral
hepatitis education at each of the prisons throughout Washington state. HEP conducts a total of 64
classes thatinclude a curriculum that covers transmission, prevention, and treatment, as well as harm
and risk reduction methods.
HEP conducts four peer education courses, six sessions each, at one male facility and one female facility.
These courses use evidence-based curriculum developed for low-income injection drug users to reduce
HIV risk and modified the curriculum to use in a prison setting to reduce drug, tattoo, and sexual risk
factors for transmission of viral hepatitis. Students are trained in tools they can use to spread harm
reduction education to their peers while incarcerated and after their release.
Results: HEP’s Correctional Health Program has reached many incarcerated individuals that are at risk of
or have been in contact with HBV and HCV. HEP has provided appropriate education to a population
that is disproportionately affected by viral hepatitis to raise awareness to those most at-risk of
contracting or spreading infection and has used evidence-based harm reduction models to inform
persons engaging in behaviors that expose them to more risk on viral infection. Over the last four year’s
alone, HEP has conducted viral hepatitis training to over 5,000 incarcerated students at thirteen
correctional facilities.
HEP has completed peer education training to over 100 students. Pre/post surveys have been collected
from all participants to measure changesin students’ participation as a peer educator and to
demonstrate an increase in knowledge of viral hepatitis transmission, treatment, and testing.
Conclusions: HEP has successfully implemented education programs working with incarcerated
populations that can be replicated by other correctional programs and nonprofits working with
incarcerated individuals. Viral hepatitis programs that provide knowledge and tools for
disproportionately impacted correctional populations is an important step in eliminating viral hepatitis.

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