The prison population has a higher rate of HIV than the rest of the UK1 and has poorer health in general.2 And while HIV-positive prisoners do not enjoy the same freedoms as other people, by law they are entitled to the same standards of health care.

However, in practice, many prisoners living with HIV find that the care they receive in prison doesn’t meet their needs. Problems with accessing basics like medication and professional support mean that their condition can become worse while they’re inside. Viral load outcomes for prisoners with HIV are poorer than for other people with HIV.3

HIV is also transmitted in prison, during intravenous drug use or sexual intercourse between prisoners. This can be difficult to address when condoms and clean needles are hard to come by. 

The purpose of this section is to highlight the healthcare services, including education and prevention, to which prisoners living with HIV are entitled, as well as explaining how official policy compares to the daily reality many prisoners experience. This section also suggests opportunities that support groups and individuals have to advocate for assistance or create positive change when interacting with prison services.

The section is divided into three parts: Health care in prison looks at the health care prisoners living with HIV are entitled to; HIV prevention in prison looks at the ways prisons address the issue of HIV transmission; and How to create change outlines how prisoners and outside organisations can attempt to change the way prisons support prisoners living with HIV.


  1. Prison Reform Trust and National Aids Trust (NAT) HIV and Hepatitis in UK Prisons: addressing prisoners’ healthcare needs. London: PRT and NAT, 2005
  2. Stewart D The problems and needs of newly sentenced prisoners: results from a national survey. Ministry of Justice Research Series 16/08, 2008
  3. Chan S Audit of HIV care in prisons: 2011. British HIV Association, (p. P9). Manchester, 2013


Edited by: Roger Pebody, NAM, based on a previous version by Matt Chittock,

With thanks to: Sue Jordan (Worcestershire AIDS Foundation), Joe Murray (NAT), Scott Ormerod (Staffordshire Buddies), Dr Wassim Malas (general practitioner), Dawn Scully (Surrey County Council), Dr Sumit Bhaduri (Alexandra Hospital)

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap