PrEP in Prisons: HIV prevention in incarcerated populations

Jordan A Parsons, Chelsea Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
366 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the possibility of using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV harm reduction intervention in prisons. PrEP is primarily discussed in relation to men who have sex with men (MSM), meaning other high-risk populations, such as prisoners, are often side-lined. The authors wanted to consider how it could prove beneficial beyond the MSM community.

First, the authors discuss whether the common objections to existing HIV harm reduction interventions in prisons, such as needle exchanges, are applicable to PrEP. The authors then apply common objections to the provision of PrEP in the general population to the provision of PrEP in a prison context in order to assess their strength. Finally, the authors discuss what the authors anticipate to be a key objection to PrEP in prisons: post-incarceration access.

The authors argue that both sets of common objections considered are easily refuted in the case of PrEP in prisons. The unique setting and nature of the intervention are such that it is without immediately apparent flaws. In addressing post-incarceration access, the authors suggest that a longitudinal consideration of a prisoner’s HIV risk undermines the objection.

This discussion is of importance due to the significantly heightened risk of HIV infection prisoners are subject to. Not only do effective HIV prevention interventions in prisons contribute to fair access to health for incarcerated individuals, but also to the wider fight against HIV. The authors demonstrate that PrEP has potential as a new approach and call for further research in this area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number2
Early online date26 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • HIV
  • Offender health
  • medical ethics
  • injecting drug use
  • harm reduction
  • needle exchange

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