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Prisons: Genito-urinary Medicine

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what access prisoners have to (a) condoms, (b) sexual health advice and (c) testing for sexually transmitted infections. (148408)

Above all other considerations, prisons must maintain good order and discipline for people in custody. They should not therefore take any action that can be interpreted as encouraging overt sexual behaviour by prisoners.

The Prison Service recognises that sex in prisons occurs and that this brings with it associated public health concerns. Prison doctors therefore have authority to prescribe condoms if, in their clinical judgement, there is a risk of HIV infection or transmission of any other sexually transmitted illness.

Condoms will not be made available to prisoners without appropriate information and guidance on sexual health education being given first.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) now have commissioning and clinical governance responsibility for the health services provided within publicly managed prisons. Prisons and PCTs work together through managed co-ordination to ensure that the quality of health care delivered within prisons is comparable to that provided by the national health service for the wider community. Resource allocations are underpinned by prison health needs assessments.

Sexual health is recognised to be an important health care need and therefore resources are allocated accordingly and to match the need within prisons.

All prisoners undergo health reception screenings on entry into prison. This is a detailed questionnaire completed by health care staff interviewing the prisoner. It is designed to identify any long-term medical conditions, any use of prescribed medication, any history of alcohol or substance dependence, any mental health problems and any symptoms requiring urgent medical attention or indicating a need for review by a medical doctor.

Health reception screenings do not include a screen for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or a blood test for HIV infection.

Tests for STIs or HIV can be offered to prisoners following a risk assessment by a doctor, or other appropriately trained member of the health care team, if a prisoner presents with signs or symptoms of such infections or describes risk behaviour which may have exposed him or her to such infections.

Prisoners are also able to request a screen for STIs or HIV if they believe that they may have been exposed to infection.