Study highlights HIV/Aids challenge in American prison system

Researchers at MUHC/McGill and colleagues at UCSF have evaluated the effectiveness of HIV treatment in patients who enter and leave ...

Researchers at MUHC/McGill and colleagues at UCSF have evaluated the effectiveness of HIV treatment in patients who enter and leave prison.

MONTREAL, 29 September 2009 – HIV/Aids is up to five times more prevalent in American prisons than in the general population. Adherence to treatment programs can be strictly monitored in prison. However, once prisoners are released, medical monitoring becomes problematic. A new study by Dr. Nitika Pant Pai – an Assistant professor of Medicine and a medical scientist at the Research Institute of the MUHC – suggests the majority (76%) of inmates take their antiretroviral treatment (ART) intermittently once they leave prison, representing a higher risk to the general population.

“Over a period of 9 years, we studied 512 HIV positive repeat offender inmates from the San Francisco County jail system,” says Dr. Pant Pai. “Our results show that only 15% continuously took their ART between incarcerations or after their release.” According to the study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, these figures highlight a lack of effectiveness on the part of medical monitoring services for these people outside prison.

“Taking ART intermittently is a problem because it depletes the CD4 count - the immunizing cells that fight infection – and increases the probability of developing resistance to the virus,” says Dr. Pant Pai. “The risk for rapid disease progression becomes higher and presents a risk for public health transmission of HIV to their partners.” According to the study those on intermittent therapy were 1.5 times more likely to have higher virus load than those on continuous therapy; those who never received therapy were 3 times more likely to have a higher VL.

“The optimal solution for treating patients and controlling the HIV/Aids epidemic in the USA is to ensure continuous therapy,” explains Dr. Milton Estes, medical director of Forensic AIDS Project, San Francisco. “To achieve this we must work on various aspects of the prisoner’s lives, such as marginalization, psychiatric problems and drug use, both before and after their departure from prison.” According to Dr. Jacqueline Tulsky, senior author of the study, “This research highlights the need to examine ART policies inside and outside correctional settings with a view to establishing effective life long management of HIV in prisoners.”

“This research is the first observational study in American prisons to evaluate the impact of antiretroviral treatment (ART) over a nine year period.  It demonstrates the need for effective community transition and prison release programs to optimize ART given in jails,” explains Dr. Pant Pai.

Partners
This article was co-authored by Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, Infection and Immunity Axis at the RI-MUHC, Dr. Milton Estes, Forensic AIDS Project, Department of Public Health, San Francisco, Dr. Erica E.M. Moodie, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McGill University, Dr. Arthur L Reingold, Epidemiology Division, University of California, Berkeley, USA, Dr. Jacqueline P Tulsky, University of California, San Francisco, Positive Health Program, San Francisco General Hospital, USA.

Funding

This study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, the university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 600 researchers, nearly 1200 graduate and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge.

The Research Institute of the MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec. For further details visit: www.muhc.ca/research.

About McGill University

McGill University, founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 34,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 160 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,400 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.

Listen to the inverview with Dr. Pai

For more information please contact:

Julie Robert
Communications Coordinator (research)
MUHC Public Relations and Communications
(514) 843 1560julie [dot] robert [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca ( julie [dot] robert [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca)




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