(HealthDay News) – HIV testing of individuals entering prison identifies low numbers of HIV-positive people not previously known to the health department, according to a research letter published in the Nov. 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Utilizing excess blood from state-mandated syphilis testing, David Alain Wohl, MD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues evaluated individuals entering the North Carolina Department of Public Safety between June 2008 and April 2009 for HIV. Samples were batch tested for HIV antibodies, and identifiers were used to merge prison test results with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services HIV testing database. The study was conducted using a waiver of informed consent, as HIV testing for entering inmates in North Carolina was voluntary.

The researchers found that, of the 23,373 entering inmates, 94.7% had HIV testing on excess blood from syphilis testing. This testing identified 320 inmates (1.45%) as HIV seropositive, 300 (93.8%) of whom were already known to be infected with HIV prior to incarceration. Only 0.09% of tested inmates were infected and not previously identified. Of the 1,239 entering inmates without HIV testing of excess blood, 1,066 inmates underwent voluntary HIV testing. Thirty-six (4.8%) were HIV seropositive and all were previously known to be infected with HIV.

“In contrast to the perception that undiagnosed HIV infection is prevalent among incarcerated individuals, our results indicate that few new cases of HIV enter prison,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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