Routine screening in youth prisons could reduce sexually transmitted infections in the community
posted on: Mar 2, 2010
Research conducted by MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit suggests the introduction of routine screening programmes for sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Young Offenders' Institutions could reduce the prevalence of STI in the community, in the medium and longer-term.
In a qualitative study carried out by Dr Katie Buston, 40 young men in a Scottish Young Offenders' Institute were interviewed to better understand their STI testing behaviour and attitudes. Most reported having had more than five sexual partners, with unprotected sex commonplace, yet only a handful of the men reported regular STI testing. Of the 24 young offenders who had been tested, most (16) were tested within the Young Offenders Institute where the screening was convenient and readily available. The extent to which they were worried about STI and thought they were "at risk" was associated with their willingness to test. Not getting tested in the Young Offenders' Institute was due to not realising it was available or not getting around to it rather than objecting to, or being embarrassed about, testing.
Dr Katie Buston commented "Most prisoners come from the poorest and most socially excluded sections of society. Targeting male young offenders whilst they are inside may provide a rare opportunity to intervene in the lives of vulnerable young men. This could reduce the prevalence of STI in the community, in the medium and longer-term, as many of those in Young Offenders Institutions will be released back into society in a matter of months rather than years."
The findings are published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.