HL Deb 12 July 1994 vol 556 cc97-8WA
Lord Kilmarnock

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they accept the evidence and conclusions reached in paragraph 152, volume 1, of the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee report into Drug Abuse in Scotland 1993–94, that in Glenochil prison, of 13 inmates found to be HIV positive, "in most, if not all, of these cases, the infection had been acquired in prison", and how and where did infection take place amongst this group.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

Responsibility for the subject has been delegated to the Scottish Prison Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. E. W. Frizzell. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kilmarnock from the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, Mr. E. W. Frizzell:

Lord Fraser has asked me to reply to your question about the inmates in Glenochil prison who were found to be HIV positive.

In April/May 1993, eight prisoners at HMP Glenochil were diagnosed as having contracted Hepatitis B. They were offered HIV tests and received both pre- and post-test counselling by medical and prison based staff. In addition, the Governor ensured that all prisoners were clearly reminded of the dangers of sharing needles, and were informed of the availability of counselling and confidential HIV tests. He also arranged for an amnesty for the surrender of needles and two sets were handed in. In total 10 prisoners, including the eight referred to earlier, sought and received HIV tests. In June 1993, eight of the 10 were identified as being HIV positive.

In view of the circumstances, an Incident Control Team, led by Dr. John Wrench of the Forth Valley Health Board, was established to direct and handle the response in accordance with standard medical practice. All 378 adult prisoners were offered the opportunity of counselling and an HIV test. One hundred and sixty-one (43%) took a test following counselling and 136 were found to be definitely negative; 13 were definitely positive (including the eight previously diagnosed) and 12 were in the "window period" (ie sufficient time had not elapsed between the test and the time they might have contracted the virus). The 12 who were in the "window period" were advised to seek a further HIV test within three months of the first test. As the testing programme was carried out anonymously and the results of individual prisoners' tests are not notified to prison staff, we do not know who those 12 prisoners were, whether they sought further tests, or whether they have now been released or transferred to another prison. To attempt to find out would be to attempt to break the assurances of confidentiality which prisoners were given at the start of the exercise, and that would not be appropriate.

After the outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis B, the Governor made bleach available, at the right dillution, as part of a wider initiative designed to increase health awareness and general hygiene in the prison. This complemented the health education measures already in place, including a video package "AIDS Inside and Out", which gives appropriate advice on precautions against HIV infection.

The medical team established that eight of the prisoners definitely acquired their infection inside Glenochil and that the sharing of injecting equipment was almost certainly responsible for the infection.