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May 29, 2018


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In 2015, governments across Europe and Central Asia committed themselves to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and combatting hepatitis by 2030. The following year, at the World Health Assembly, they adopted the first WHO strategy on hepatitis, which calls for eliminating viral hepatitis as public health threat. They then all then approved the WHO Europe action plan to eliminate viral hepatitis as public health threat in September 2016.

The disproportionately higher prevalence of HCV and other communicable diseases in the prison population puts at risk the health of people incarcerated, prison staff and the general population since most people are eventually released. It is a threat to public health that urgently needs to be tackled to achieve the above- mentioned targets.

Governments, across the WHO Europe region are also legally bound to respect, protect and advance fundamental rights according to the international and European human rights conventions they are party to. It entails the inherent principle that prisoners should enjoy an equivalent standard of care to persons outside prisons.

Experts increasingly stress the need to look at end results beyond equivalence of care due to the greater health problems amongst prisoners. It is also the responsibility of the prison authorities to ensure that risks to health are reduced to a minimum; and that the dignity and human rights of every prisoner are respected. The Committee on the Prevention of Torture has long recognised that an inadequate level of health care can lead rapidly to situations falling within the scope of the term “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Yet, while prevalence among prisoners in the WHO Europe region is generally than in the general population and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality both among HCV-mono- and HIV- co-infected among them, they have a more limited to access to HCV prevention, treatment, care and support services. This situation presents thus present both a public health and human rights emergency that needs to be tackled together by local authorities, civil society and health professionals.

In order to better understand and document challenges and ways to enhance access to HCV related services in prison, EATG and local civil society partners examined the situation in 6 countries from the WHO Europe region, namely Bulgaria, Finland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Portugal.

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